Whatever happened to @towerbridge?

  • 13 June 2011
  • From the section Technology
  • comments
Tower Bridge

Whatever has happened to Tower Bridge - or rather the @towerbridge Twitter account?

It used to be rather charming and chatty, with latest news of its doings - "I am closing after the MV Dixie Queen has passed downstream."

Now it has gone all corporate and quiet, promoting events at its museum, but often saying nothing for days on end.

The original @towerbridge account was set up three years ago, when Twitter was young and carefree, a place where smart young developers could try out some new ideas.

Among those ideas, as I described on this post a while back, was getting real world objects, from the Jodrell Bank telescope, to the Isle of Wight ferry, to Tower Bridge, to tweet.

The Tower Bridge idea was from a man called Tom Armitage, who describes himself as a twenty-something games designer and technologist.

The Tower Bridge twitter bot was, he admits, completely unsanctioned by the owners of the bridge. Three years on they now seem to have decided that this was not a good state of affairs.

Back in early May the @towerbridge account suddenly said this - "Hi, we're new to Twitter. Follow us to find out what's happening in and around Tower Bridge. Did you know there's an Exhibition inside?"

The history of the account, it seemed, had been wiped clean along with all of those snippets about raising and lowering for passing vessels. It was now a promotional site for the Tower Bridge Museum.

Mr Armitage appears only to have noticed this over this last weekend - and was naturally upset. He complained vociferously about Twitter's apparent high-handedness in handing over his account to the owners of the bridge without telling him.

Then he discovered an old e-mail informing him that the account had been claimed by its rightful owner:

"Twitter responds to reports from trademark holders regarding the use of trademarks that we determine is misleading or confusing with regard to brand or business affiliation. It has come to our attention that your Twitter account is in violation of Twitter's trademark policy."

Fair enough, then. It's not surprising that Twitter responds to businesses and organisations wanting to claim back the valuable real estate that is their Twitter name - if you set up an account called @Buckinghampalace you can expect a challenge pretty rapidly from its rightful owner.

So the real questions are for the new owners of @towerbridge. What made them decide that they needed to take over the account from Tom Armitage?

Why did they wipe out all the work he had done? And when are they going to show that they can do something as interesting on Twitter as he managed?

Twitter is growing up and becoming a far more professional platform. But the danger is that it is also becoming a less friendly place to try out inventive ideas.