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Twitter to Client Developers: Drop Dead (daringfireball.net)
471 points by joshus on Aug 17, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 173 comments

This doesn't surprise me at all. When you develop on someone else's platform, you have to walk a fine line between not being successful at all and being too successful such that the platform provider co-opts your business (maybe you get lucky and get bought out). This is nothing new. Such moves as this were (IMHO) inevitable. They'll slowly chip away at anything they see as taking revenue from them.

The part I disagree with is that this will doom Twitter. It will not. They've already achieved a certain level of success. Most people use and will continue to use the Website or the official client and be happy with that.

I do believe that Twitter is doomed to be acquired however. Apple seems the likely frontrunner for this but I think Twitter needs Apple more than Apple needs Twitter at this point.

Twitter is ultimately infrastructure and infrastructure seems doomed to commoditization. Twitter has eyeballs too but social platforms seem fickle at best. There is nothing preventing Twitter from becoming the next Myspace.

There are many reasons I'm glad about Facebook's floundering market debut. This is one of them: it's taking the wind out of the sails of the social hype (IMHO).

"Twitter is ultimately infrastructure and infrastructure seems doomed to commoditization. Twitter has eyeballs too but social platforms seem fickle at best. There is nothing preventing Twitter from becoming the next Myspace."

Like others I tire of the dragging out Myspace as that guy who started on weed and ended up an incontinent meth addict in the gutter but the core of this premise is correct, the 'useful' part of Twitter is as an infrastructure.

Small digression, when I was at Sun we had pushed out NFS to anyone and everyone, it was completely 'open' in the sense that we published all the protocols and anyone could build a compatible clients. Since this was web 0.01 the only servers and clients were in the same building generally but still the easy access, the documented protocol, and a thousand flowers bloomed. You could get your implementation 'blessed' as being standard by coming to Connectathon and proving you could interact with all of the other approved implementations there. NFS is everywhere, available for nearly every compute platform. It was infrastructure.

At an important meeting on the future of NFS (and a new proposed product called "ONC plus" which would have per client charges, and strict licensing controls. I argued with Ed Zander (then president of Sunsoft) over the wisdom of changing the NFS model. The business development guys had computed that if everyone that was currently using NFS was paying just $10 per client per year for a license, SunSoft would be the most profitable part of the Sun Microsystems universe. I asked Ed if he knew how many people would run NFS if it were $10/client, he pointed to the bizdev projections, and I told him no, it would be exactly zero. Zero because nobody would pay money to Sun for a technology they were not sure would work (AT&T had tried that with their DFS product in System V), and they certainly wouldn't base a business that needed it if Sun could pull the plug at any time or raise the price. And finally, the whole 'Open' thing only worked when you allowed other people to play. As I recall he reminded me to stick to the technical decisions and leave making a business out of it to people who understood such things.

Twitter is Twitter because it is Twitter. That twisted circular definition captures that something simple and free caught the imagination of millions of people and became something greater than itself. It became an infrastructure. But unlike Cities or other large corporations which have a revenue stream to cover the costs of their infrastructure, Twitter does not.

And so they are in the throes of discovering what is, and what is not, a business opportunity in the Twitter universe. And that discovery process is painful, and prone to missteps. Seeing Myspace wheezing in the gutter I do not think they would make the same exact missteps, while they could end up irrelevant, they have more options. They do need to understand how people value them, and understand how much of that value is "them" and how much is their partners. That is a complex thing. A great example of that process is looking at their on again / off again 'firehose' pricing model.

I think they have a lot going for them, but they have to figure this stuff out, and quickly. Folks like Google and Apple and Facebook aren't going to just sit around and do nothing. Watching them walk through the minefield that is API handling should be instructive to anyone here who hopes to do the same at some point.

There is one thing that twitter and facebook have that no one else in the history of... well... anything i can think of.

> They have an unlimited product placement budget.

Every TV Show, News program, Commercial, Website, Company... places the "Go to facebook.com/ford" or "tweet us @nbcnews".

This results in billions of dollars of advertising and they need to pay nothing. This helped build both twitter and facebook. Google should figure out how to get this for Google Plus. Once they do they can expand as quickly as twitter and facebook.

>Google should figure out how to get this for Google Plus.

Spoiler alert - the answer is 'be as popular as Twitter and Facebook'.

T & F didn't become so popular because of product placement. They got the product placement because they were so popular.

> the answer is 'be as popular as Twitter and Facebook'

Also, proper URLs.

"Add your voice to the conversation! Just go to plus dot google dot com slash 114124849657167573853".

haha google plus urls definitely suck

A good comment but I think you have it backward. When NBC puts "tweet this story" in the HTML frame that isn't advertising for twitter per se, that is NBC hoping that you will give NBC free advertising by spreading awareness of a story around the web. When the Tahoe ski resorts say "Take Interstate 80 to Truckee" they aren't advertising I80, but they are causing a lot of traffic to be generated, and that traffic is going to cause road damage that needs repair.

This is what I mean by "figuring out their (Twitter's) value."

Imagine that their API is really a bunch of method calls into the Twitter 'object'. They could, as an example, make their simple API 'free' and as you tried to do more complex things charge for those things. Presumably they would structure it so that folks could make 'useful' twitter clients for free, but they would have to pay some price for making more full featured clients.

Of course the challenge there is that you can't really charge for features that can be built out of the free protocol stubs, because people will just scrape those free ones and get around your code.

I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but MySpace had the same exact thing for companies..."Check out our MySpace" was everywhere.

Why did MySpace fail? Users are known to be sticky - they tend to stay with the same newspaper, brand of chocolate, chewing gum, household cleaning products and so on. But they are only sticky up to a point. If something is better by a sufficiently significant margin, then they will switch (or some will). You can keep those customers just by just matching your competitor's improvements. For many things, the pace of change is reasonably slow. Also, many people just like that specific taste (even if they don't think it tastes as nice - like Coke and New Coke). There is some change (e.g. sugar-free gum), but it's easy for the leaders to keep pace. Perhaps in some cases, the scope for possible improvement is less than the margin needed for users to switch - so you ever fail.

MySpace had that huge advantage of many sticky users, but they stopped improving it, and a competitor (Facebook) made an improved experience.

Twitter is safe for as long as there isn't a sufficiently better competitor - "better" being in terms of the benefit to users, not any engineering quality in itself.

MySpace grew from music. Every single band was MySpace—all of them. This is what they leveraged to go from Friendster-level early adopter popularity, to mainstream youth popularity. This was huge, but they never got past this because MySpace always felt like an Internet underbelly sight. For the same reason that 50 years ago, grownups did not spend hours gabbing away on the telephone like teenagers, MySpace could never make inroads into the 25+ market segments.

Facebook rolled through phase 1 by being exclusive, then phase 2 by first saturating college students, then they exploded beyond what any social network had ever known by offering a clean, curated and controllable experience that steadily roped in older people by being the place to stay in touch with younger friends and family.

I always laugh when people trot out MySpace as a cautionary tale for Facebook, because it's irrelevant. MySpace was the 500lb gorilla in 2004, but Facebook is the only 5000lb gorilla that ever existed. Whatever bring them down won't be for the same reasons that MySpace failed.

Fun Fact: MySpace launched August 2003, Facebook February 2004. For all intents and purposes, MySpace isn't any older than Facebook.

Didn't realize it was that close, but also I didn't go to ivy league :)

MySpace definitely hit the growth curve early since it was wide open, and Facebook wasn't open to non-college-students until when, mid-2006?

People joined Facebook because they could connect to all their old schoolmates on Facebook. And this was because they started out as a school network. Myspace would have failed even if they kept improving it, if that one feature was missing.

Remember AOL Keywords?

Now you mention it, i do, but i remember they rarely mentioned AOL's name. they would just say. Enter keyword *.

That was before everyone had the internet.

But aren't those "free ads" a result of their large userbase, not a cause? I think FB and Twitter were already very big and influential before those started popping up.

Facebook definitely had a large user base, but twitter was still relatively small. Also for the mass market, you need advertising and reinforcement of the product. The free product placement through traditional media has given both facebook and twitter that for free.

Everyone cites Myspace. Either Twitter or Facebook does something controversial and we hear everyone citing Myspace. Myspace didn't lose it's user base due to amazing UX for end-user. They lost their user base due to combination of bad UX and "mobile" user base. Majority of Myspace users were teenagers and by the time they went to college they had hot new social network in form of Facebook, which was exclusively for them. And Myspace was never big in non-English speaking markets.

Twitter on the other hand offers good UX. They have loyal user base of millions of users from different age groups. They are huge in Asian markets. And they have celebrity users, governments, political leaders, olympians etc. It will be very hard to move entire user base from Twitter to some other service.

App.net is an interesting alternative. And they can disrupt real-time information market. I think App.net can have number of use cases like firehose of realtime feeds for devs . But killing Twitter entirely will be very hard!

EDIT 1: Grammar

EDIT 2: Twitter for me is more than infrastructure utility. It's my primary information network.

>Twitter on the other hand offers good UX

Every time I go to twitter in a browser I want to punch whoever designed it in the face. It is by far and away the most annoying site I encounter on a daily basis, which is impressive given that all I want it to do is display plaintext.

So much this

I figure out they have 2 designers there, one really good and one that doesn't have the slightest idea of UX and design

Case in point: the way DMs are notified to the user. That's right, in the previous web version it wasn't. And this version is better, but not great

Doesn't it send you an email if you get DMs?

I've turned that off, because I tend to get notifications in my clients. There's no good Windows client yet though, so when I'm on my gaming machine and don't have my phone handy, I use the web client for tweeting, and I never notice DMs.

I like Echofon a lot. Their Windows client is essentially just their firefox plugin running as it's own app, but it's pretty good.

I especially like that I can sync all the tweets I've read between my Windows machine at work, my iPhone, and my Mac at home. I don't know of any other app that works for those 3 platforms and has syncing.

I'll give that a try, but I don't care much for Echofon on any other platforms.

There is a service called Tweetmarker (http://tweetmarker.net) which some clients are now using to flag your last-read location amongst other clients on other platforms (e.g. Osfoora on Mac and Tweetbot on iOS).

It's configurable

> I think App.net can have number of use cases like firehose of realtime feeds for devs

Devs already have a twitter-like firehose, and it's even open source, identi.ca

It's also a huge difference in scale. MySpace ultimately stumbled on a comparatively small stage. IIRC at it's height they had maybe 80-100 million legitimate accounts. A mass migration of say 20 million users in a short period of time is something totally different than say 100 million users. FaceBook also had about 50% as many users by the time MySpace hit their numerical peak. So to apply that to Twitter I think some new service would have to grow about 100 million users and then steal about 100 million from Twitter.

Twitter is ultimately infrastructure


To reinforcer this point: in the early days of Twitter it kept falling over under the load - the one thing infrastructure should never do. It didn't matter.

To further reinforcer this point: OSStatus/Identi.ca has a widely deployed, API compatible implementation of Twitter. That really is infrastructure, and yet it has had approximately zero impact on Twitter's growth or strategy - because Twitter isn't infrastructure.

(Unless you mean it in the way that every single online service is ultimately infrastructure - but I don't think this is what you meant).

Twitter has eyeballs too

You say that like it is a minor point, whereas actually it is 90% of what matters.

It also has the publishers people want to follow, for whatever your particular niche is.

social platforms seem fickle at best

Actually, social platforms aren't fickle: they are usually incredibly sticky (see the huge number of forums that have been running for 10+ years). Most people just look at the "social network" category and see how Friendster/MySpace/Bebo/Hi5/etc all got destroyed by the Facebook juggernaut.

They never talk about the success of LinkedIn/PInterest/Twitter/Reddit/etc.

In every case, those overran competitors of their own (including Facebook in some cases) to dominate their categories.

That's not "fickle", that is platform strategy and product development.

There is nothing preventing Twitter from becoming the next Myspace.

MySpace sold to News Ltd, and then went downhill. Maybe Twitter won't sell itself to a company that is actively internet-hostile. But yes, you are correct: potentially any company could fail.

> MySpace sold to News Ltd, and then went downhill. Maybe Twitter won't sell itself to a company that is actively internet-hostile. But yes, you are correct: potentially any company could fail.

I don't think that's it. I don't remember the acquisition disrupting their strategy much. Rather I think the quality of their code base and inability to keep up with Facebook's agility is what drove the nails in the coffin.

* I don't remember the acquisition disrupting their strategy much.*

I find it very interesting that the rate of growth in MySpace's membership slowed significantly with 6 months of being bought[1].

I think the quality of their code base and inability to keep up with Facebook's agility is what drove the nails in the coffin

I agree 100%. And I think News Ltd was to blame: they didn't (don't) understand the internet, and didn't know how to manage a high-growth property like MySpace.

But then again, it could all be co-incidence.

[1] http://www.petehatesmusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/mys...

quality of their codebase?

Maybe not quality of the code base per se, but Forbes had an article a while ago that called out ColdFusion as one of the contributing causes of their demise: http://www.forbes.com/sites/stephenwunker/2011/07/25/4-moral...

I don't know to what extent that is fair, but I can only imagine that at the very least highering the best and the brightest to work on a coldfusion project could be.. tough.

Twitter is ultimately infrastructure and infrastructure seems doomed to commoditization

Interesting take. Seems almost exactly the opposite to me. What makes Twitter valuable is not the "eyeballs," or even the infrastructure, but rather the pulse of content. It had what essentially amounted to first-mover advantage in the sphere of mobile content, and that is why none of the Twitter clones have been able to take its place.

That said, this direction Twitter is going toward "more closed" is wrong. Given that it's the market-researcher's goldmine of content that makes Twitter valuable, disallowing developers the ability to build infrastructure on top of that content seems really stupid. Raw data is not useful; the organizing of, packaging and presenting of that data is where the business value can be (profitably) delivered. It can be profitable for both Twitter and developers.

> Twitter is ultimately infrastructure and infrastructure seems doomed to commoditization.

This couldn't be further from the truth, and the thousands of copycat networks, not least from Google, are proof that networks can't be commoditized.

The only reason I am still on GitHub, Facebook, hn, reddit and Twitter - despite there being better 'products' and 'infrastructure'- is because everybody else is, and the same applies to them.

The two are not mutually exclusive. It is infrastructure, but it's also subject to network effects.

Your comment is correct, but misses the point: grandparent was contesting "infrastructure seems doomed to commoditization", not "Twitter is ultimately infrastructure".

I don't think this move, in an of itself, will doom Twitter, but it is just another example of why Twitter and its model aren't working.

The problem with Twitter is the same problem that plagues innumerable startups - they've built a product without even once thinking about the business model, and are not scrambling for revenue.

Inexorably, everything they do in the pursuit of revenue is going to involve making the product worse for users. Ad injection, loss of 3rd-party apps that support the ecosystem, all of that is just example after example of how a business with no built-in monetization will eventually cannibalize itself in the pursuit of revenue.

I'm not sure you can claim a company that is likely bringing in $540m in revenue this year and is expected to bring in $1b in 2014 not working. Or that it has no built-in monetization. Sure those numbers could be/likely are inflated, but there is still real money flowing to Twitter.

Obvious they may be "priced" at a higher valuation - but anyone looking to buy them is going to have to pay up - they are a rare commodity if they are hitting those revenue numbers.

Personally, I've expected this for a while and never understood why anyone would spend time on developing a client - unless you're developing something for a business to manage their social network. I am a bit surprised they don't just put some requirements on what clients have to carry in terms of advertising and that would be it.

Reality of the situation is that most 3rd party clients outside of Twitter probably aren't that big relative to people going to Twitter directly now.

Twitter is ultimately infrastructure

I think this is the most important point, one that most people -- Twitter included -- seem to overlook or ignore.

What we need is an open Twitter-like protocol -- but for it to be successful it should be peer-to-peer, not server-based like Twitter. A few year ago I was working on a startup which would build precisely such a protocol, but my partners backed out before we could lift anything off ground.

One of ideas was to make the client double as a Twitter client, in order to attract a wider user base. This would be less viable now, with the new Twitter API restrictions, but I would still love to see someone develop something like that.

Well, there's OStatus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OStatus), which is supposed to be an open standard for microblogging.

No, it's not quite what I had in mind. OStatus is intended for exchange of updates between sites that have statuses (statii?), while I'm thinking of something that would exchange messages between users directly without the need for a central server (except probably for user discovery and connection).

So you're wanting to reinvent XMPP?

Actually, XMPP the underlying technology we finally decided upon, just before the team fell apart. But the concept was to make a product that is based on it, but with a different feature set from the usual IM/chat clients we see.

I don't see the part about this change dooming Twitter in the article.

You have an interesting point about commoditization, however. It makes me think about the IM space and all the different services there.

As for eyeballs, I think a Twitter competitor can do what media companies do — pay for certain celebrities, authors, speakers to move their microblog to their service — do a few of those, and you'll start to have an audience.

"There is nothing preventing Twitter from becoming the next Myspace."

Is there anything preventing any social network from becoming the next MySpace? Seems to me it is all in the users, if the users leave you are the next MySpace. I don't see how you could force users not to leave?

Interesting point about being acquired.

Do you think perhaps restricting 3rd party clients is a way to make them more appealing to a potential buyer like Apple?

If they're appealing to Apple, I'd say it's because they already have such a big partnership with Apple in iOS integration. For whatever reasons the partnership was appealing, an acquisition would likewise be appealing.

Maybe, but Apple would be inclined to make it Mac / iOS only, which would be counter productive. The other non Apple stuff has had a strategic importance, iTunes for windows enabled them to sell iPods and Safari for windows helped with website compatibility. Can't see this happening.

Of all the social media and web services that have cropped up in the last 5 years, Twitter was the one that really filled me with joy. It's so simple! It's just plain text in bite sized pieces at a time. And it's universal! It works just as well on state of the art hardware as it does on a crappy SMS dumbphone or green-screen serial terminal. And it's as compelling in Egypt or Pakistan as it is in New York or London.

Whenever I get fed up with the complextiy of Facebook or Google+ I'll load up Twitter on an old Apple II, via TTYtter and a serial connection; I'll watch the green text scroll along at 1200 baud and think about how this one simple, geeky text service, pure as a 1980s BBS, somehow made it, worldwide, in 2012.

And now they're hellbent on ruining all of that. Fuck Twitter.

Would love to see a screenshot (or picture?) of that!

A short video clip would probably go viral on YouTube

Love the graphics! Excellent.

Sometimes I tend to see the dark side of human in everything they do. Sorry, its just the way I am.

I say when twitter was still this little chick, their approach was "we love all users, we welcome engineers; build amazing tools and surprise us!". I think the reason for that was to speed up the process of spreading the word - a simple fact that geek working on twitter 3rd party is still a human with plenty of friends to spread the word about twitter - so he can be helpful: let him spend his time doing what he likes doing the best - programming and he will become our cheap (free) PR tube.

But now I bet most of a new age civilization knows or uses twitter. So it is time for a reality check: "fuck off of our platform; we don't need you anymore! You got all your friends to know twitter, some even addict to it; now stay away from trying to run your pathetic queries, using our own data stream".

Just my version/2c.

edit: my understanding is that Dorsey still has the most to say in the twitter world. With all its nastiness going on between twitter curtain, I say stay the hell far away from any startup he will do in the future. Sorry, but if he signs up half of the world on his square, what on Earth is stopping him from switching 2.5% to 10% fee?? nothing!! At least the past (present) shows he has the balls to execute moves that average tweeting Joe is not a fan of: shutting down 3rd parties, kicking out linkedin, shutting down instagram access, etc. Bottom line: stay away!

It doesn't make sense to make this personal. Business models inevitably change when startups grow up. You can't expect a company that needs to create network effects to act exactly the same as one that needs to exploit them in order to make some money and pay back investors.

Twitter got the funding to build that massive infrastructure only because someone believed that they would eventually be able to monetize it. Twitter is not a public utility and everyone knew it.

The conclusion isn't to never use something one particular guy does. The conclusion is this: If you build on someone elses infrastructure, make a contract or make sure you exit before the tide turns.

Square doesn't have a network effect, it doesn't really matter if one store uses square, and the neighboring store uses google wallet, dwolla, or something else.

Square and payment systems in general most certainly do have network effects. For instance, I don't have a Discover card because it's not worth the hassle of checking whether each merchant accepts it.

Network effects are the lion's share of the justification behind Square's Starbucks deal.

Yes it does. If their mobile payment app becomes the de facto standard, not accepting payment from that app could become as bad as not accepting credit cards.

If Twitter's business is threatened by third-party apps, why not charge for an API license? I also can't quite understand why developers expect a free API from services like Twitter and then complain when something changes?

What is the business advantage of Twitter (or Facebook, or what-have-you) releasing a free, public API to anyone who asks, and how did they plan to monetize it when it got popular? You can't build your business model around "here, use my service for free" and not have a plan how to convert either the users of the 3rd party developers' software or the 3rd party developers themselves into paying customers (or monetize on that somehow, i.e. mining data, selling ads, etc). Maybe I'm just being naive -- I honestly don't have much experience dealing with these sorts of things, so I would love it if someone could break it down.

I agree with you. Google's model is pretty good with most of their 25+ APIs having free tiers. Free is nice but being in a real business relationship feels better to me because it is more likely to be sustainable. Microsoft's API marketplace has the same solid sustainable feeling.

If a business idea requires free use of other people's services then think of another idea.

The large swath of discussion seems to be focusing on App Development, which is probably the hardest hit.

However, there's another area that has gotten me wondering, non-app, non-client based websites using the API, in reference to the Display Guidelines..er Rules.

This is the bit specifically.

"Users must have a consistent experience wherever they interact with Tweets, whether on Twitter.com, a mobile client, website, or in an application developed with the Twitter API"

So lets say that I go to GitHub and grab a little jQuery plugin to pull in my tweets on my personal portfolio. Does that also mean I have to make sure I include my own avatar, my username, Tweet actions, and twitter branding, among other things? What if those elements are unnecessary to the design or intention of what I'm doing on the site?

And then there's the fact that all of these jQuery plugins are going to have to start implementing authenticated access (if they weren't already, which many seem to not be.) I don't have access to data on the matter, but I would surmise that there's a significant number of personal and portfolio sites out there pulling in tweets that are either not authenticated, or are modifying the tweet display in some way. All the ones I've interacted with have settings for turning avatar display on or off, or unlinking hash tags or links, etc.


From here, I think we should move to a distributed model, like email and xmpp.

It needs to be Open Source so anyone can run it and everyone owns their data.

It needs to be compatible with current Twitter apps so all it requires is setting the API root.

It needs to be distributed so anyone can follow anyone anywhere. There is no owner or root, there is no place to shut down.

Proof of concept: https://nstatus.herokuapp.com

Source: https://github.com/maxpow4h/nekomimi

I wrote about the requirements of it here: http://maxpow4h.com/blog/twitter/

edit: you can use any username with any password to sign in to nstatus. It then uses that password for your username. You can even do this from the official iOS Twitter app, just sign in.

Sounds like what you are after is buddycloud (https://beta.buddycloud.org), lets list its win points:

- open-source - open-standards - free - federated

Keep your own data, talk with whoever you wish.

Built on XMPP and actively contributed to by a great group of developers (admission: I am on of these developers).

When you join up you can find me at lloyd@evilprofessor.co.uk

This looks really interesting. Is there a page on the site somewhere that gives a high-level overview of what it is and how it works? The wiki has lots of technical details, but nothing I could find that you could email to a decisionmaker and say "you should read this."

/me nods. I'll write something up this weekend. Thanks for the feedback!

What would its advantages be over status.net/identi.ca?

status.net is great, but I would have federation where you can add a server as a source rather than just a user. Then if that server has a @fred, @fred would always be resolved to the @fred on that server. In conflicts, you should be able to resolve these conflicts and proxy names yourself. (my proof of concept doesn't do this)

Maybe even taking Diaspora and taking out everything except 140char status updates AND adding an API compatible with Twitter apps would be a better approach.

edit: clarity to first sentence.

How do you control spam?

I don't, it's just a proof of concept.

In the distributed implementation I would have a chain of trust from the people you follow, where if you report someone as a spammer, the server that represents people who follow you could look at your list and filter spammers based off this. You could also set the depth to traverse. There is a lot you could do with this.

I'm not saying my implementation is right, but someone needs to do it. Tweeting is a type of communication and needs to be distributed.

I wouldn't have as much immediate issue with this if Twitter's own clients were acceptable - they are not. And this is an asinine move either way.

Twitter's own clients are fine. You can read tweets and send tweets. That's the basis of the service. It's supposed to be simple. Why don't you like it?

TweetDeck used to do Facebook+Twitter. Will they continue to work on the Facebook part? Unlikely - and there won't be other clients that do both...

The mac client has not been updated since June 2011 ... hardly well supported!

Not really a valid reason. What is it about the client that needs to be updated?

Amusingly, it doesn't even use Twitter's own picture service for photos attachments which is a year old at this point. It still uses yfrog.

I never would have noticed, since it continues to work without any issues for me.

Is that really all there is to it? Are all apps equal provided they have CRUD?

I don't see this ending well for them. Alienating the very developer base that helped them grow as a platform early on is a huge mistake.

As an aside, I feel even better about backing App.net after seeing this news.

But who is keeping app.net from doing the same thing once they killed Twitter and reached a size where they can say: Thanks for all your friends, now get off of our platform.

We need open protocols and a decentralized social network where we have different implementations with focus on different use cases which are still able to communicate with one another.

A good chunk of the protocols and implementations is already there with OAuth, Activity streams, salmon, RSS and such. And there are already open sourced implementations like status.net and others alike.

The solution is already there. We only need to start using it.

Unless platforms like Facbeook or Twitter make a significant amount of money from their devs, the way Microsoft or Apple does, telling their devs to go pound sand at some point is inevitable.

Facebook makes a lot of money from their devs.

Not nearly enough, by all accounts.

Zynga accounted for 15% of Facebook's revenue in Q1. Although Zynga's contribution declined compared to last year, payments and fees revenue (mostly from apps) doubled over last year to $186 million. That's not an insignificant amount.

Source: http://techcrunch.com/2012/04/23/zynga-made-up-15-of-faceboo...

Twitter wants to give you access to the data. Their client is their main product. Thus, every 3rd party client is competing with their main product, that seems to be a fact.

Theres no way to stop you from building one anyway, twitter knows that. If you go against their rules, you're a revolutionary, and if you win that revolution, they'll have to deal with you.

You can't expect however, that the incumbent is going to go around encouraging revolutions against themselves.

The only alternative is to encourage everyone to make clients, at which point, they're just a big cloud xmpp server to the world.

Twitter had better take a long, hard look at Joel's old essay on Platforms: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/Platforms.html

Declaring war on your third-party developers is shortsighted at best, fatal at worst.

Perhaps there is a class of people who pay for email apps. I'm not one of them. I don't see twitter as a platform, or at least don't use it as one. It is a communication medium which, for all my usage, could have no developer ecosystem.

Professionally I would love to have free access to the Firehose, that's some juicy data. But as a consumer Twitter 'apps' are no more worth my money than email apps.

>Their client is their main product

Is it? Their revenue stream will be coming from paid tweets, so aren't the tweets themselves their main product?

It seems grossly unfair that they punish other 3rd party clients who are doing exactly what Tweetie were doing 2 years ago.

The data is their real product.

I find it ironic that the company that's created Bootstrap - an entire toolkit encouraging developers to adopt their site's visual style - is so opposed to any other aspect of following their lead.

It seems to me that if Twitter were able to offer their API freely to devs at zero cost to themselves, they would do so.

Twitter bootstrap, on the other hand, is something they built for themselves to reduce the friction of creating rich, consistent UIs. Developing it is a sunk cost. Offering it free to the world should cost them nothing as it's hosted on Github [1].

Like others in this thread, I lament that Twitter has become less egalitarian. Moving forward, developers with one idea of usage will have more Twitter clout than developers with "lesser" ideas, but Twitter has bills to pay and investors to answer to. It's far from an ideal world, but I can't offer them a better solution for their problems.

[1] https://github.com/plans/ all plans offer 'unlimited public repos'

> To prevent malicious use of the Twitter API and gain an understanding bla bla bla...

Translation: so that we can charge even light API users.

This will surely backfire - some services will switch from API usage to screen-scraping, resulting in an even higher load on twitter's servers.

At that point Twitter will simply block IP address, or some such. Sure there will be a game of catch me if you can, but the end is that no one really wins, and Twitter may suffer because people will use it to bad mouth Twitter. Enough user sentiment, even if it start from the devs of a few highly used apps, and Twitter might want to reconsider.

If the client is native, you can do that scrapping client side. Say your app has 10000 users. Assuming they can detect this (not likely) what are they gonna do? Block 10000 IPs?

What client devs have actually stopped development and abandoned/shut down their applications in response to Twitter's client TOS changes? I hear lots of griping and moaning it seems like lots of the major client players are developing nonetheless, which says to twitter "keep doing what you're doing."

Developers seem to flock to platforms like Apple, Facebook and Twitter based on the fact that they have a large and growing user base without giving thought to this issue of commoditization of complements and how the ultimately destroy the business or livelihood of these developers.

Most people building products or sharecropping on other people's platform never make meaningful income and yet those platform keep will prefer to announce large sums paid out to developers to encourage you to keep building complements. Apple will claim they paid out $5 billion but spread the numerous app developers it becomes peanut and not enough to pay their bills. They won't tell you that to pay out $5bn they made atleast $2billion based on their 30% cut.

They don't tell you that iOS app success is a "lottery": 60% (or more) of developers don't break even



I really hope people will think hard before building their business on the back of Apple, Facebook, Twitter or any such platform. You can use them as as distribution without being dependent on them and that is the way to go.

Be your own bitch and not a Twitter, Apple or Facebook bitch:


Twitter's developer problem is probably at about level 9 right now. My question is what's really the big deal. Twitter can do what they want and really more to the point, I don't think Twitter should be the primary focus of innovation from our community. It's a stream of mostly nonsensical 140 char messages. I get it it, it's amazing ... but come on, we can get past Twitter.

>It's a stream of mostly nonsensical 140 char messages.

This maybe true for a lot of tweets. But my stream is filled with live updates of interesting stuff from around the world.

Twitter has been instrumental in getting news out of war zones for example.

Yeah I don't know why Twitter gets so much hate. It is similar to Reddit: What you get is what you subscribe to.

Wonder how they got the bright idea to advocate limiting the quadrant named "Consumer Engagement".

Surprised they didn't try to make it a bit less obvious.

The blog post is actually annoyingly ambiguous - do they want to limit all the stuff in the "consumer engagement" quadrant, or just the "traditional clients," while encouraging other sorts of "consumer engagement" (they mention, and don't make clear if they're in favor of or against, Favstar and Storify).

can't say I blame them really. They have a product, they have the infrastructure to support it....why shouldn't they have right of first refusal on how to monetize the thing?

Seems to me that developers are getting all pissy because they can't have free reign to a platform that isn't even theirs. Perhaps, at the end of the day, Twitter doesn't care - they don't need the developers as early adopters anymore and it must be a fair old strain to keep the api infrastructure supporting them when the resources could be more profitably used building something else inside the company.

Utter hypocrisy that they're discouraging third party clients, after having acquired one.

app.net suddenly looks more attractive.

app.net looks more attractive, until the same shit starts happening there in 5 years. The problem is walled garden social networks. It's a fundamentally bad idea for everyone involved, except the people who own it and can turn a profit. StatusNet/Identica is a much better solution to this problem than yet another walled garden. Free, open source, and federated. How many times does the same shit need to happen before people realize the only long-term solution?

The possible difference there is that app.net has both a business plan (sell access to post to the service) as well as a feedback model if they do something stupid (people will stop paying them).

Sure, that's a difference, but a rather incremental difference IMHO. Not nearly as big a difference as federation and open source, which is what we really need to break out of the walled gardens.

How many successful open-source platforms are there? I can't think of any. Unlike Free software, platforms have a maintenance cost (servers), and that cost cannot be paid by donated man-hours.

The only thing close that I can think of is BitTorrent due to the distrubuted infrastructure, but that's quite impractical to duplicate in this context (how can browsing the content contribute back to hosting and storage automatically?)

In an ideal world I agree, but that's not where we live.

There are many. Email is a particularly notable example. Luckily, the technology sector wasn't run by "entrepreneurs" back when email was invented, or we would have wound up with walled gardens there too (Hotmail users can only email other Hotmail users and contacts can't be exported, etc).

But it was. Back then, you had "online services" - Prodigy, Compuserve, GEnie, and AOL. And for the most part, users on one of those services could only mail other users on the same service.

Email and the Internet won because the sector was competitive enough that no one service had enough market clout to not offer e-mail. Once some people got e-mail accounts, other people wanted to e-mail them, and threatened to move off the services that didn't support it in favor of services that did. That scared the online services, so rather than lose, they all started offering e-mail themselves, until they lost anyway.

If you want open social-networking platforms, the solution is to make the market competitive enough that no company can afford not to be open. Usually that'd involve choosing to use the smaller players until they're big enough that no one company is gigantic.

We did have walled gardens. I had accounts on Compuserve, bix, cix, MCIMail with a college account that did mail with bang path addressing over uucp (this is in 1986/7).

Most of the UKs email over uucp came in via the ukc gateway and IIRC I think I was charged something like 4p/1K for email that was international at that point. From memory my usenet feed came via a US bank in the City and was over a telebit trailblazer modem.

By 1990 I'm pretty sure that cix,MCIMail and Compuserve all at least had gateways to SMTP mail and within a few years it all became more more transparent and free.

Interesting point, although I don't consider email a platform like I do Facebook or Twitter. While there's no central database, there's a means of determining where the right server to talk to lives attached to the username.

We'd need some sort of DNS-for-handles in order to implement something similar for a new protocol, unless you want your handle tied to a domain (in which case you've just remade email with a RESTful API and a length limit)

Look into StatusNet, it's a solved problem.

It would seem to me that open standards are the answer to walled gardens rather than 'Free, open source and federated'.

I don't know of any standards-based activity discussing a twitter-like capability but multiple interoperable implementations, open and closed source, free and for money, provides an 'ecosystem'.

I would contrast an ecosystem to a platform. A platform is owned or controlled centrally whereas a successful ecosystem isn't. A well-managed platform ultimately provides the most benefits to the platform owner whereas a successful ecosystem provides the benefits to the most successful entities within it, a playing field to compete within.

Well if the standard is open and popular, there will be free open source implementations, and they will be important. And if the standard is open but not federated, it's not very useful.

The whole point with app.net is that this doesn't happens. They don't mind that you use the data any way because you're paying for the platform, not the client.

That's not "the whole point". You're missing the part where it's yet another proprietary walled garden designed to maximize profits. That's not really a great model for end users.

The way you maximise profits is by making your customers happy. Twitter's customers are advertisers, not users. App.net's customers and users are the same group of people.

You gain customers by making them happy, maximising profits often does the opposite, but you hope most won't leave as you make the service worse/more expensive.

I know. All I'm saying is that's not the whole point. The walled garden is a fundamental aspect of both of those strategies, and in both cases the walled garden works against the best interests of the users.

Anyone who trots out the tired old cliche about walled gardens is just spouting rhetoric. Anyone who also advocates open source is can be ignored out of hand.

The issues here are open standards, open protocols and the small matter of who pays for the upkeep of the infrastructure necessary to provide the service. Tired, Maoist-style sloganeering is merely making a noise.

I mentioned "federated" too, in case you missed it. You are right, that's the most important part. Yet another reason to support things like StatusNet over walled gardens like Twitter and app.net.

App.net is going to support ActivityStrea.ms

I've never heard of ActivityStrea.ms, and their website is sufficiently obtuse that I still can't tell what it is. Can you enlighten me? Are you saying that app.net will support some kind of federation, maybe, hopefully?

Twitter isn't very big in my circles, but of those that use it, none of them use the website.

And this is why Twitter wants to kill the third-party clients. Twitter has decided that ads are going to be its revenue stream. The only way they can guarantee you see their ads is if you use the website or an official client. If nobody uses those, nobody sees the ads, so Twitter makes no revenue. So they have to get your friends onto the website or an official client to stay alive.

This logic assumes, of course, that Twitter's web app and official clients are good enough substitutes for the third-party clients that if the third parties go away people will use the official clients rather than just stop using Twitter altogether. Which remains to be seen.

Really? I honestly prefer the website experience better than any Twitter app I've ever used. But I guess that may just be me... Haha

Couldn't Twitter just arrange a price for "business" usage of their API? The main people getting affected by this are other clients or other intensive uses of their API, but those very people are most probably trying to make a profit themselves (HootSuite for example) so why not just charge for the API and so leave the restricted API for free use. Or am I missing the point?

"In the “good” quadrants are bullshit terms like “Social CRM”, “Social analytics”, and “Social influence ranking”."

Not bullshit, these are demonstrably useful products for people who want to utilize new traffic sources in the interest of making money or growing their business.

"But services like Storify and Favstar, which are actually useful and/or fun, those are no good."

ummm...ok? Utility is in the eye of the beholder...Twitter is a B2C product, so they're going to try and limit the number of competing services that are stealing B2C market share from them (why would you expect them to be ok with people using alternative Twitter apps instead of the official one?)

Now, Twitter is not a B2B company, so it makes sense that they would allow those types of services to continue. It's quite possible they're allowing B2B services that are utilizing the twitter platform to continue operating because they plan to acquire a few of them in the future to try and actually make a profit one day.

This must be the Twitter analog to a Voight-Kampff test, because "social CRM" and "social influence ranking" seem to me to be the fuel for spambots, mindless marketing accounts, and other general filth. The MBA behind this plan would probably stand outside his bakery demanding payment for people stealing smells.

It's fun to bash social media douchebaggery, but I've come to the conclusion that opting in to thinly-disguised ads might be the best use of Twitter. It's not good for conversations (see Branch) or for actual socializing. I guess Twitter is also kind of good for ranting, trolling, and bragging (see RKOI), but those might be even less productive than advertising.

  "Twitter is a B2C product, so they're going to limit B2C"
  "Now, Twitter is not a B2B company"
Awesome. Now they aren't, and when they decide they are? And speaking of acquisitions - well, they can essentially kill you willy nilly so you better settle for the price they want.

The dangers of sharecropping are well known around these parts, Twitter has squandered their reputation and has brought these things to the forefront of anybody who would consider building a business on top of their platform. It will not end well for them.

Let's get one thing straight: these are not products, they're services. Nobody is producing anything here.

Do you not consider a releasable piece of software a 'product'?

I would tend to think of the whole thing as a service (e.g. "Twitter" - all of its apps, data, brand, users, infrastructure), versus individual apps (e.g. "TweetDeck") being "products".

Why wouldn't they just just charge heavy non-client API users and offer (cheap?) paid plans to users who want to use third party clients, leaving the rest to use an ad-supported web interface? This is the best solution long term which wouldn't really piss off anybody or nuke the ecosystem, while embracing the realities of running a business.

So from the "fantastic" quadrant scheme, basically they don't want users (which they re-labelled as consumers) to actually use (engage with) the service, instead they want:

1. "consumers" to be analyzed

2. Companies to use the service

Well at least it's rather clear what the new and future values of Twitter are.

It's not that they don't want users to engage with the service, it's that they want as much control over that interaction as they can possibly get away with.

Cynically, the more garauntess they can give to the other three quadrants, the more money they can make from them.

More positively, things like requiring reply/retweet/follow buttons with embedded content encourages more interaction with the service.

If a (lazy) journalist makes up an article from collating a few tweets you're now encouraged to reply, retweet and interact with twitter right there rather than using the Facebook Connect comments system at the bottom of the page.

Their value to the other three quadrants is interactions. They're not stupid enough to intentionally reduce that, though one could argue they're not going about it the best way.

Is this more evidence that they haven't completely figured out their own business model yet?

I don't know if this is the worst thing that Twitter could have done, but it's probably fairly high up there. I wonder what people like Tapbot and thinking right now, they're grandfathered in for some very, very specific agreements but they know that one misstep and they'll end up out in the cold or paying a fortune.

But then what does that mean for a Tweetbot user like myself? Less incremental updates? One day the application breaks? Who knows, too early to tell.

I'm mostly surprised Twitter isn't just leveraging the fact they are pumping out that many requests and slipping ads or promoted tweets or promoted tweeters into the API stream and making cash off that. Seems like it'd make sense.

I wonder if this is coming because they can't keep up with the write load. The writes that come from these third party apps (that enable messaging multiple people, or queuing/delaying tweets) might throw a wrench in their system if it doesn't follow the natural usage they've designed it for.

The only other reason I can fathom why they would doing this is they eventually intend to heavily push ads over their network, something that third party apps could interfere with.

> I wonder if this is coming because they can't keep up with the write load.

Wouldn't an easier solution for that be to tighten the rate limiting for posting?

> The only other reason I can fathom why they would doing this is they eventually intend to heavily push ads over their network

I think that's pretty much it.

Why couldn't Microblogging work like email (or Macroblogging)? Some people email through some provider or host their blogs at wordpress.com, others host their own. Big bloggers pay a lot for their infrastructure, amateuer bloggers get free blogs supported by ads.

Still not sure if Twitter isn't just blogs that include a friends list and a reader (kind of like Tumblr, which seems to be taking off, too...). And the short messages.

There is something like that, and it does work. But... does anyone know more sites that support OStatus? I know of these:

http://rstat.us/ http://identi.ca/ http://status.net/

Which is nice, but not really much. Wouldn't it also make sense for, say, Wordpress or phpBB (or any and all other blogging and forum software, these are just examples), to also support OStatus? Everything that has content and updates, basically. Why not build OStatus apps instead of Twitter apps? Am I missing something?

Or are there other, similar standards/attempts? Because to be perfectly honest, I STILL haven't found the tutorial that just "tells me what to do" to go from offering an RSS feed to supporting OStatus, I'm kinda dense when it comes to these things. I need code examples :/ It can be pseudo-code, but it needs to be complete, instead of just a high-level verbal description ala "first you implement subhubbub, oh, and then there is salmon". I digress, but any and all hints would be appreciated. After all, it's for a good cause ^^

Well it's not like alternatives don't exist. Of all the popular social media services, twitter has got to be one of the easiest to reimplement, it's only social inertia that keeps Twitter going. (Which says a lot about the power of social inertia.)

As usual what is needed is a decentralized approach, but that always takes time to catch on even if it can be made to work.

People keep talking about Facebook and Myspace, but they lack(ed) full-on third-party clients, so what I'm wondering about is the LiveJournal comparison.

LiveJournal too had and has third-party clients. And though hardly popular in the English-speaking world these days, it's still going. But I don't think it has similar guidelines. So what's the comparison?

In the “good” quadrants are bullshit terms like “Social CRM”, “Social analytics”, and “Social influence ranking”

Would he rather they put one-paragraph labels on each quadrant? Sometimes phrases that sound like MBA buzzwords (and might be MBA buzzwords) are actually useful too.

I think he'd rather Twitter take a firm, unchanging stance as to their policy toward third-party applications built on the Twitter-as-a-platform concept. The buzzword-filled doublespeak in their blog post serves only one purpose: to intimate change while keeping their future options open. Unfortunately, that makes their policies (current or otherwise) about as firm as a loaf of bread.

If so, he didn't express it that way. It just sounds like an unnecessary sideswipe.

Anyway, I think the matrix does make it more clear than just saying "we don't want 3rd party twitter clients...and some other stuff".

The overall issue with the diagram is, not only are they MBA buzzwords, but it's a silly diagram that has no meaning – they're dressing up 'things we don't want you to do anymore' as a technical diagram in a two-dimensional space that makes little to no sense.

What doesn't make sense about the diagram?

Speaking only for myself, the diagram makes sense, technically speaking, but it is totally unnecessary and adds nothing to my understanding of the article. It's the type of thing I would expect some manager to ask for because there were no pictures on a given page and it needed to be "spiced up".

Ok, so what is "Social CRM"?


Social CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is use of social media services, techniques and technology to enable organisations to engage with their customers.

Social CRM is often used as a synonym for Social Media Monitoring, where organisations watch services like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for relevant mentions of their product and brand and react accordingly.

I always had the impression that bands and musicians made myspace what it was. Seriously, they seemed to have every single band you could think of. That in combination with the Google Search results deal (which still seems to be running) was a winner.

Did anyone manage to extract API key from the official Twitter client?

I wonder how Twitter's developers are feeling about these changes... Devs tend to be pro-openess, I imagine this to have a bitter taste for most of them.

Are people missing the fact that existing Twitter clients can keep their token allocation and double it? And new ones are limited to 100K only by default (they can ask for more)?

Since when did people consider unlimited access to Twitter's API an unalienable right? It is their platform, and their API. It's also completely free.

Twitter is absolutely free to limit usage of their own API however they wish. If it means they want to change the rate limiting on their servers, I see no problem with that.

No one is arguing they aren't in their rights to do this. I mean sure a lot of people are indignant about the fact that Twitter became what it was through the ingenuity of the developer community, and without them Twitter would never have grown to its current size, but that's neither here nor there.

The bottom line is that Twitter's communications make it clear that they are grasping at straws for their profitability and that no developer is safe if they think you are capturing too much value. Obviously you always run a risk building on someone else's platform, but Twitter's direction and language around this would make any developer a fool to start anything new on that platform.

But nothing, fundamentally, has changed. Twitter has always been grasping at straws for profitability, and they have always been in control of their platform. Would you have not been a fool to build something on Twitter last year? You would just be betting that they wouldn't introduce limits in the future, vs. knowing those limits today.

Well it's been sort of clear which way the wind was blowing for a while now, but definitely 3 or 4 years ago Twitter was bursting at the seems with developer support for innovation in all directions. It was an extremely welcoming platform compared to Facebook and iOS. Their developer PR has completely reversed that.

Of course if you're cynical you could have called it from the very beginning, but the point is it wasn't wholly unreasonable to believe that Twitter was willing to let developers capture real value in exchange for becoming gargantuan and providing critical infrastructure (ie. the old changing the world thing). Whereas now it's very very clear that Twitter is not willing to share any significant value. They want to capture it all, and they are adjusting the ToS to put them in a position to cut people off at the knees the minute they smell some value escaping from the ecosystem.

Now I am convinced that I will never depend 100% on a third party platform/API for a serious business.

The reason: they found out that it's hard to make money when users can trivially strip out your ads.

Twitter are being shits, but as a developer on the Twitter platform, what could you really expect?

If app.net gets the userbase, i.e. the people I want to follow, i will be over there in a flash.

Has anyone considered that twitter is actually pretty stupid?

If I can't use Hootsuite, I can't use twitter.

enterprise clients was one of the things in the 'good quadrants'. I'd assume hootsuite may well fit that description.

Hope so.. even if they have a high follower count

The writing is on the wall though; Kinda has been for a while. I think this is why App.Net might actually get some traction. People will move when that's where all the cool features are, and none of the crappy ads. Maybe.

This is why I don't base my entire business on someone else's platform. They could make one little change and destroy your entire business overnight.

I wonder if twitter have a $50 app.net account?

Grunter owns Twitter

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