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It's the old casino analogy: When you're betting on a platform you don't own, the house always wins.

I don't know much about Twitter politics, but we've got:

- Developer hostility this week

- User hostility last week, with the dickbar

So maybe this is just how it goes now that Costolo is in charge. "Fuck the loyalists, we're here to make some money. Getting sick of these third party tools charging coin for our damn API while we get nothing."

If so, the question becomes: who creates more value on Twitter? Is it the old guard, who use it as a communications and community medium? Or is it the mainstream, following celebrities and talking about sandwiches they're eating, eyeballs to be sold to the highest bidder?

(edit: My hunch is that, too late, the Pareto principle will be discovered hard at work: 20% or less of Twitter users actually generate 80% of the value. I just can't see it as a bland, empty consumption tool. There's surely peril in optimizing toward that.)

It sounds to me like Twitter wants to round up its user-cattle and drive them on down to monetization gulch. Anyone who gets in the way of this is going to be flattened.




>It sounds to me like Twitter wants to round up its user-cattle and drive them on down to monetization gulch.

Uh, yeah. Is that really surprising? We're all being driven to Monetization Gulch to escape the absolutely fatal Winter of Unprofitability.


> Uh, yeah. Is that really surprising?

Your sarcastic grunting aside, it's utterly shocking. Imagine Google, circa 2001, with crass, interstitial banner ads between search and SERP. It would have destroyed them. The opportunity for heaps and heaps of money, gone in a single, vulgar puff of smoke.

Twitter has the opportunity to leverage a critical mass of enthusiastic users. This is a rare, golden gift.

Last time this happened, Facebook minted some billionaires while discovering a sustainable, user-virtuous business model. There were growing pains, especially with the early, spammy apps, but overall, Facebook has managed to balance the needs of a lot of people without screwing up the magic of their product.

The time before that, Google did the same thing.

Sadly, rather than pushing toward a business model that makes the most of the very impressive ecosystem they've cultivated, it looks as though they want to break down the most interesting portions of it and then find money in whatever turns out on the other side.

The lasting virtue of Twitter, to me, always seemed to be that it would always be whatever any given user needed it to be, thanks to the wealth of apps that dip into its API. If that goes away, Twitter's shelf life is curtailed.

To me, it seems nutty, and not terribly imaginative. Ask Digg: pissing off your core constituency so you can hopefully make money is not the same as actually making money.


pissing off your core constituency so you can hopefully make money is not the same as actually making money.

So, after all this ranting about Twitter's change - what do you suggest they do to "actually make money?" Isn't that the end-game for every company? Is twitter even close to justifying their private valuations with revenue? I haven't seen anything from you that suggests an alternative approach that actually makes them more money, other than "don't do that."

You also previously mentioned that twitter has a rare golden gift of leveraging a critical mass of enthusiastic users.

My thoughts about that? Show me the money! So far, they aren't doing that.


Easy, have normal accounts for personal and non profit use, anyone that is trying to either sell things or building a brand can pay for access, including all the celebrities.

I don't mind the current promoted trends/tweets/follows, I guess the only thing I would change is call the promoted trend something else, because it isn't really a trend.


This makes no sense. How is it in any way tractable for Twitter to bucket a user into a brand, a person, a person who is also a brand, a person who is trying to build a brand, a person who is just really enthusiastic about a product, or a astroturf account pretending to be really enthusiastic about a product?

It's not. That's not easy, that's a fundamentally realignment of the product.

What if you're a normal guy and you get famous from some youtube video? Now you're a celebrity. Pay up - but oops, you're broke? Fuck it, you're off Twitter.

Not gonna work. :/


Okay make it simpler, your posting as directly as a for profit company and not under your own name you pay, doesn't have to be a large amount. I think it's better model than advertising, if your reaching a customer base through the service and see value in it for your business you pay. I personally like it a lot better than ads.


They could offer premium accounts with new services like analytics, search ads like google does, charge brands for an analytics tool showing anyone talking about their products, etc.

There are definitely options.


I think they should use their large engineering team to build something new and separate from Twitter.


Wait, the Twitter engineering team should build something separate from Twitter? I don't understand.

On a similar note, though, I am surprised that this hasn't sparked more discussion about the distributed open source social networking movements. I know Dave Winer's been talking about quitting Twitter working on some sort of alternative. There seem to be some interesting answers to Facebook that could orthogonally solve similar problems to the ones Twitter does. Anyone know of any other interesting work along these lines?


identi.ca?


> Uh, yeah. Is that really surprising?

Why yes it is. Twitter went out of their way to say how much they supported developers and considered them key to their success. That wouldn't seem to include making Titan off limits.


80% of Twitter's users probably won't care, it'll be Bieber and #bootyappreciationday as usual for them.

If we start seeing a lot of Dickbar-level gaffes from Twitter though, it may end up that the other 20% starts flocking to something else (kind of like the slow exodus from MySpace to Facebook).


Totally agree. I think that's the danger Twitter faces with these kind of moves.

Since the nerds founded the Twitter community, I wouldn't be surprised to see the next move be some sort of open, distributed, federated Twitter-clone that mirrors the existing APIs. Easy win for the client developers, no one to be a buzzkill, and it's not like spam can be any worse than it is now anyway.


This has existed for quite some time now and is called identi.ca

I've used identi.ca almost as long as twitter, and my preferred client Twidroyd on the Android supports both of them (thanks to the fact that identi.ca has an option to use an API made to emulate the twitter-API).

I highly prefer identi.ca to twitter, and the only thing keeping me on the twitter-network at all is the fact that most of the people I follow only are on twitter, and for some strange reason it's very hard to convince people to change, even though, in my opinion, identi.ca is superior.

I really hope they soon manage to get a twitter-pull up and running (they have been talking about that for a long time now). If they managed that I would convert fully to identi.ca.

Edit: Got to update my browser more often... Sorry bingaman


Why do you prefer identi.ca to twitter? I don't use either, but I have been to both sites. Twitter looks nicer. I wish people did prefer identic.ca, it concerns me that so few popular websites are open-platforms.


The fact that middle-click-to-open-in-new-tab doesn't work anymore in the Twitter web client makes identi.ca at least less crappy to my tastes.


Mainly because it's open, but also because it seems to be more stable than twitter and because I find the twitter web UI horrible (not that the identi.ca web UI is nice, but it's still better).

Generally I almost only use free software, and prefer open-platforms whenever possible. I actually can't remember the last time I used non-free software.


Freedom is killer feature.


For people who consider FOSS a killer feature.


By rights it should be, but it's demonstrably not. Sadly the industry is plagued with a critical mass of people (though I question whether they are actually still members of our species) who don't object to being told how they may use their tools.


Identi.ca: http://identi.ca Status.net: http://status.net


With all due respect to the open source Twitter clones, Facebook didn't beat MySpace by being open source. It beat MySpace by being an exclusive, opinionated, clutter-free alternative to MySpace, and later on a developer platform.


Are identi.ca and status.net distributed? Their website doesn't make it obvious what it's all about.


Status.net is the Free software that power Identi.ca - Identi.ca is the showcase instance of Status.net and the biggest to date... But there are many others : http://status.net/wiki/Sites - And you can deploy your own !


Yes, using the OStatus protocol suite, see http://status.net/2010/03/07/understanding-ostatus


No, they're centralized like Twitter. StatusNet is like the Wordpress of microblogging. Each Wordpress installation is its own isolated island. It's the same with StatusNet.


Not true, see my reply above. Users on different StatusNet instances can subscribe, reply, and fave each other.

You can see this in action at https://identi.ca/conversation/60337615 (which also points out some of the rough edges).


People have been talking about this for years now, since the early grumblings of Twitter performance problems. There was no mass migration then, and I doubt we'll see one anytime soon. There's no viable alternative to Twitter at this point like Facebook was for Myspace refugees.


The problem is for a migration to happen, it can't just be a little better than Twitter. It has to be a LOT better than Twitter.


>There's no viable alternative to Twitter at this point like Facebook was for Myspace refugees.

well, if one didn't put him/herself into Myspace in the first place, the one wouldn't need to seek refuge.


Exactly. MySpace has shown that these kinds of moves can be fatal to a social network with low switching costs for users, even in the presence of network effects. Twitter's strength is not technology; from a technical standpoint, duplicating Twitter is trivial. Twitter's strength is its community, and they erode that at their own peril.


I think the key thing here is 'what are we betting on?'. The analogy to Facebook doesn't work, as the developers have bet on different things. The apps that Twitter are calling out are ones that are trying to replace Twitter itself as a consumption device for end-users. Can you name one major Facebook app that does that? I can't. When Facebook saw a good pure social innovation in an app, they didn't hesitate to copy it. However apps that have built on top of Facebook to add value in different ways have been actively supported by Facebook for years. Twitter themselves in the announcement make this distinction - do something different than just trying to replace us for end users (e.g. a business management tool, a cool data analysis tool) and we'll support you; otherwise get lost.

I don't really think this is hostility - I think it makes sense for Twitter and for developers; people who've just been trying to replace Twitter themselves were always fighting a losing battle.


The apps that Twitter are calling out are ones that are trying to replace Twitter itself as a consumption device for end-users.

Until today, "Twitter itself" referred to the network, not the clients.


"When you're betting on a platform you don't own, the house always wins."

Except when it doesn't.

It's not a zero-sum game-- the house winning doesn't mean that the bettor loses. Zynga, Rovio, and FourSquare are all pretty fat on platforms they don't own.


The house always wins because the house always has final say. If they want to put you out of business, they get to. The game is rigged.

The point is that in the end, you're never going to be in a better position than the guy who runs the show. You can often win alongside them, and that might be the bulk of developers, but if you're enjoying a better position than the platform operator, that's not going to last forever.


For now.


are they really? Rovio might be the exception, but how fat are Zynga and FourSquare right now, compared to their debt?


Uh, what?

Zynga is making $50M per month: http://www.engagedigital.com/2010/05/14/zynga-revenue-estima... (they've raised $500M).

Foursquare is a bit farther from monetizing... Not sure if I'd bet on them but they would be nowhere without the FB/Twitter platforms under their feet. But they've raised ~$20M on a rumored $100M valuation.

That isn't debt. In both cases, the companies sold a small minority stake of ownership for a huge pile of cash into the company coffers.


That post is nearly a year old. I'd be curious to see if anything has changed.

Not debt, but it's still money owed.


"Not debt, but it's still money owed."

False, and inanity.


> If so, the question becomes: who creates more value on Twitter? Is it the old guard, who use it as a communications and community medium? Or is it the mainstream, following celebrities and talking about sandwiches they're eating, eyeballs to be sold to the highest bidder?

> (edit: My hunch is that, too late, the Pareto principle will be discovered hard at work: 20% or less of Twitter users actually generate 80% of the value. I just can't see it as a bland, empty consumption tool. There's surely peril in optimizing toward that.)

Sounds like what Digg tried. On the other hand, while we can see how that one went Digg had competition.

What's Twitter's competition? What other almost-but-not-quite-as-used (say within an order of magnitude) microblogging service is there out there?


Facebook, for one.

tumblr, for some demographics.


And Convore, though nowhere near the same scale. But that might not matter. The founding members of the Twitter community enjoyed its budding intimacy once upon a time, I suspect.

Convore is infinitely more optimized for community than Twitter was, though it remains to be seen if the structure helps or hinders organic community growth.


Some of us in Finland use http://www.qaiku.com/

This service was built when Jaiku was being run down by Google, and features microblogging with threaded comments, embedded media and language filters


The trick my father has used to succeed in various limited duration markets is to a) realize when you're in one and b) get out before it's too late. Both, especially the latter, are difficult and perhaps impossibly so in today's very well connected world, but he did it for e.g. 8 track tapes in the '70s (for a long window the law didn't require giving the RIAA a cut, just the artists) and C band satellite home video in the '80s (what the pros use(d) for distribution, now replaced by K band DirecTV and Dish Network).

A lot of people also made money in these areas but clung to their companies' obsolete business models for so long their net gain was modest or negative by the end as they rode them down to the crash.


All tech companies, companies really have the tendency to become evil after the become successful. Flattening the opposition or anyone perceived as a treat to their business model, really their bottom-line, will get "flattened". This can include faithful users and developers. This is the basis of capitalism. Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon, all media darlings at one time or another, have all exhibited differing levels of douche-baggery at some point.

Twitter, like Apple, right or wrong, wants to have complete control of their platform. It certainly is within their rights and not at all shocking that at a certain point, they would reset certain parameters. Whether they go too far remains to be seem. We probably don't need any more Twitter clients, but who knows. Maybe the slickest, most awesome. voice-activated, built-in hipness meter, Twitterlishous(tm) has yet to be written.


Well said. Twitter's got a lot of goodwill but seems intent on running it down.




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