The chief executive of Twitter has been involved in an online stoush with an Australian start-up founder after disabling a feature the start-up relied upon in a product it markets mostly to big-name brands.
It has amassed nearly 2 million users who either access the website's services for free, with limited functionality, or upgrade to the professional or business versions for a fee.
Companies including AOL, PayPal, GE, Microsoft and American Express are all users, as are business magnate Richard Branson and the office of British Prime Minister David Cameron.
But now one of ManageFlitter's most sought-after features, which allows users to follow and unfollow Twitter users in bulk, is about to be banned by Twitter. It claims the feature is used by spammers.
ManageFlitter is used by brands and ordinary users who want to follow or unfollow a large amount of users with the simple click of a button without having to spend hours selecting individual users manually.
Twitter will revoke ManageFlitter's access to the feature sometime this week after changing its application programming interface (API). It allows third parties like ManageFlitter to make their sites interact with Twitter's.
Under Twitter's new rules announced on July 10, third parties "may not use or develop any service that allows for the following or unfollowing of user accounts in a bulk or automated manner".
"Accounts and applications that engage in this practice will be suspended," the rules say.
Garber is upset by the ban as it affects the desirability of his product.
Some users have been complaining about the changes in the comments section of a blog post on his start-up's website, threatening to stop using ManageFlitter.
"Disappointing," wrote Barkan Saeed, founder of Vizteck Solutions, a mobile, web and game development firm. "Nothing much in ManageFlitter to pay for now."
"What a shame," said another. "Definitely won't be extending my account as this is the only reason I bought an account and I'm sure it's the same for pretty much everyone else ..."
One commenter was so upset he tweeted Twitter CEO Dick Costolo about the ban. Costolo was blunt in his reply, telling the user there would be "no bulk following, period".
Another of Garber's clients, Iain McDonald, co-founder and CEO of Australian digital marketing agency Razorfish, also chipped in, saying many of his clients needed to follow back users for customer service.
Razorfish also needed the ability to bulk unfollow spam accounts, he said.
"How is that an unwanted behaviour?"
Costolo replied: "When accounts engage in bulk/auto follow-back, it allows spammers to pollute their timelines and spam their DM inbox. Bulk unfollow generally addresses spam created by auto-follow."
In a Fairfax Media interview, Garber said the ban punished legitimate Twitter users "who use bulk follow/unfollow in very legitimate ways to organically grow their account.
"This API change of banning bulk following/unfollowing is an attempt by Twitter to reduce spam," Garber said.
"It is a low-picking option for them as they don't have to do anything, [it] won't cost them any money and they believe it will help. [But] we don't think it will impact the genuine spam issue at all."
He said brands and businesses were using tools like ManageFlitter to manage their Twitter presence and the ban "only makes life harder" for them "with no genuine impact on the spam ecosystem".
"The truth is that all of the spam that occurs on Twitter happens through black-hat tools which rarely use Twitter's API," Garber said.
"These tools allow spammers to perform bulk and automatic following and spamming with far less restrictions than are already in place for tools which use Twitter's API and follow Twitter's terms of service."
Razorfish's Iain McDonald said he believed the change was a "poor strategic move by Twitter", especially if it wanted "agencies and brands to be spending more money with them".
"Managing thousands of followers manually is a tough and laborious task without some level of automation. I certainly don't think Twitter should be playing God deciding whether brands should auto-follow back or not, especially when Twitter has done so little to provide tools to help brands manage followers, especially when there is still no rating system for profiles.
"On the flip side, I find it bizarre that they would punish innovative products like ManageFlitter who have built a solid solution for brands to keep their house in order - it's the sort of system you would have expected Twitter to release but never have.
"Moving forwards, we will probably advise clients to focus less on Twitter if it turns out to be too labour intensive as a result of these changes."
- Sydney Morning Herald