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Twitter cuts off “find friends” access to Tumblr (marco.org)
182 points by rsobers on Aug 23, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 73 comments

Not completely unexpected. Twitter needs cash, and they need a sustainable business model. I would not be surprised if Tumblr and Twitter talked and there was a value disagreement about who brought what to the party. Another one of those things my grandfather would say that this reminds me of is this, "The thing about a Mexican standoff is that sometimes they shoot."

I used to do Battlebots, Comedy Central had the television rights, at contract renewal time Battlebots and CC disagreed over who brought the most value to the table, they agreed to disagree and both walked away.

Clearly this will kill neither Twitter nor Tumblr but what it does do is put an obvious to fill gap in Tumblr's toolchest. Presumably they could add Identi.ca there where Twitter was, sure you wouldn't find any friends their yet but if Tumblr can convince their users to get an Identi.ca id when they create their Tumblr and then offer a chance to find people with it, it helps more than it hurts.

    >if Tumblr can convince their users to get an Identi.ca id when they create their Tumblr and then offer a chance to find people with it, it helps more than it hurts.
If Tumblr needs to push their users to get an account on a social network that isn't Tumblr then they have SERIOUS problems. But the traffic numbers indicate they don't need to do that, I don't see why they wouldn't just use good 'ole email addresses as the discovery method instead of Twitter.

Well it was more the interest graph. I follow people on twitter for whom I have no idea what their email address is. So finding all the people I follow on Tumblr is a simple matter of getting my follow list and matching up with registered Twitter handles.

And yes, Tumblr can do their own service the Tumblr version of Twitter, but then users are 'meh' because really they want just one thing to follow/monitor not a dozen (the Google+ problem in spades).

So what Tumblr really wants is a replacement for Twitter that has the same attributes, but creating that replacement is a made harder by the whole 'one place to go problem.'

One possible strategy is to empower a 'neutral' third party. As more and more people are alienated by Twitter, even competitors of Tumblr can see the benefit of empowering this neutral third party and so by not 'owning' the service they empower the service to be successful. I realize that is a bit zen but its really the only way this works as far as I can tell.

Twitter needs cash? Aren't they profitable?

I'm not sure why they would add identi.ca? Since it's a StatusNet install, Tumblr could run their own StatusNet instance and keep the users on their own namespace.

I wonder if Twitter will become like MySpace -- a mass market/middle school/music/urban ghetto, with everyone smart enough to move to another service doing so (which was Facebook at the time).

If the tech/vc/science community moved to app.net, the only thing left for me on twitter would be businesses abusing it as a form of RSS, which is by far the easiest content for them to publish to both Twitter and App.net in parallel. So really there are about 5k and maybe up to 50k people who need to move to app.net for me to no longer care about Twitter, and presumably at least 2500 of them have already signed up.

I'm rooting for App.net, but I highly doubt that the post-Twitter era will simply involve a comparable Twitter replacement.

Personally I believe that the post-Twitter days will involve a shift away from micro sharing towards long form writing and better ways to have discussions with peers.

Personally I believe that the post-Twitter days will involve a shift away from micro sharing towards long form writing and better ways to have discussions with peers.

We have that. It's called blogging, and it came before Twitter. In order for you theory to make sense, you have to explain why people moved to Twitter in the first place, and/or if there is an uptick in blog activity

Blogging is not sharing - blogging is a GET, sharing (in the Facebook or Twitter formats) is a PUT.

To read new posts I'm interested in, I have to remember to bookmark and revisit the blog regularly. I don't have a convenience glance-view of what's new in my personal blogosphere. RSS was intended to solve this, but never really had much mainstream uptake, and I don't suspect it will now either.

The real addictiveness of Facebook and Twitter come from the fact that they are capable of constantly providing you with a stream of interesting content, filtering out that which you don't like and floating up that which you do (the mechanisms for this between Twitter and Facebook are quite different).

Until blogging can have the same thing (tumblr I suppose is somewhat like that, but is still somewhat of a fenced yard for its own community), it won't be the same as sharing in the modern context.

I'm rooting for dozens of similar, federated services that interoperate an operate on levels comparable to twitter, facebook, and wordpress

I wonder if you see the implicit racism in your first sentence.

Also: the issue for any network is that your 5k people will likely differ significantly from my 5k (or whatever the right number is). Extend that over an entire user population and now Metcalfe's Law takes hold, but in reverse.

It is a studied fact that both myspace and twitter have been more adopted by the popular music scene (hip hop, pop, rock) than other technologies, and that both have much higher percentages of black users than other similar sites on the Internet (and in the military, it was mainly enlisted using myspace, and officers using facebook; guess which one they blocked after 3 months?) This article, for example: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2010/08/...

"Urban" seems like a pretty fair term for teenaged/young adult hip-hop and related culture people, which does include more black people than the general population. However, a black 40 year old college cs professor or engineering professional is more likely to be on facebook (or linkedin, or researchgate, or hn) than twitter, so it's not really a racial thing, it's cultural, which is probably more tied to age and interests than anything else.

> implicit racism

Really? What race was implied? The OP attributed mass market/middle school/urban ghetto with intelligence, which subsequently is correlative.

Not sure how race was ever implied here...

"Urban" is a euphemism for "black." See also "inner-city" & in reference to young people often "at-risk." Not saying commenter intended to be racist but that the term "urban" refers to black people (in the US, in this context) is indisputable.

...um, no.

I live in the inner city. I'm white. My apartment is in an urban area, meaning I'm surrounded more by buildings than well-manicured streets and houses. I live in an urban environment. And we have people of all shapes, sizes and colors here.

When I lived in L.A. (North Hollywood, specifically), it was the same thing - urban (meaning, "of or pertaining to a city," look it up), but much more run-down. Not a lot of black people. More hispanics and white people. Myself included.

Communication depends on a common language to make it work. Just because you've decided that a common word means something different than its etymology - or its definition, even - doesn't make it so.

You're both incorrect and needlessly condescending, so I'll correct you with your own uncivil tone.

I'm not sure if you're being willfully obtuse or you actually have been living under a rock all your life and thus never heard the ubiquitous use of "urban" as code for "minority," but suffice it to say, the person you're responding to probably did not single-handedly plant all of the references to the phenomenon that exist in the world. Look it up: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=urban

The fact that you can neither grasp the concept of a connotation nor fathom the idea of a word being used euphemistically does not make its real-world usage go away.

Not racist, it's true. MySpace became a ghetto - of all sorts of colors and races. Twitter has been much of the same...

And what do you think is racist about "ghetto"? Who is it racist against? Knee-jerk political correctness is the lowest form of intellectual activity, barely one step above brain death.

I think he meant "urban" was racist. It does correlate with race, but I don't think the term (as used in marketing demographics) is racist as I used it -- purely descriptive of the userbase of a site. Similarly I'd say most BET viewers and fans of Talib Kweli are black AND urban, but that statement isn't racist IMO (although I'm not even sure if it is true; I like Talib Kweli and it is possible that even if a greater percentage of black vs. non black people are fans, the total number of non black fans is higher due to a greater total non black population.) I think it is reasonable to have a discussion of something where race, culture, age, geographic factors, etc might exist without it being racist in the commonly accepted sense.

>> Talib Kweli

hahahehe... you probably picked the worst example of a rapper's fans being primarily black. That or Mos Def :p

I was going to say this...yeah, bad choice. For sure. Or The Roots for that matter.

Direct link to source: http://thenextweb.com/twitter/2012/08/22/tumblr-becomes-next...

I wonder if they tried to negotiate behind the scenes, to get Tumblr to pay $$$ for that access, and couldn't come to an agreement. Or if this is part of a negotiating strategy. Charging for third-party access seems logical given that they referred to their follow graph's "great value" when they shut off Instagram. Simply shutting off access at any price, on the other hand, doesn't make sense.

Sounds about right, and similar to what happened between Google's real-time search and Twitter. Guess no one should be surprised about this happening if work with Twitter ...

This is getting to be ridiculous (if the story is true). This use case of finding friends wasn't part of the Forbidden Twitter Quadrant, the one containing clients and apps like Favstar. In fact, they encouraged this kind of use at their developer event I attended last year, and of course they would, it strengthens the value of their network. I have been planning this kind of integration myself, but it's beginning to feel like Twitter wants to become a completely isolated silo.

I can only hope a mistake was made here as it sounds so absurd.

There is nothing absurd about this.

Twitter is a company that is in the business of making money. They are nominal value for themselves when they let third parties import their entire graph and providing incredible value for the importers.

This is a 100% rational business decision. If Twitter didn't offer friend finding on 3rd party networks before, it would be a bad business decision if they up and did it today.

No one will stop using Twitter because they can't use it to connect with their friends on another service.

These companies are competitors. There was a time when it was worth the user/developer goodwill to let other networks build their graph off of Twitter's. At this stage (and it's been this way for a while), Tumblr almost feels like a migration path away from Twitter since it allows for longer content. If users can replace platforms but not graphs, what is stopping them? Twitter recognizes this and wants to stem that. It might not be what we expect from a web or (former) API company, but I don't think it's personal. They're just transitioning away from being an API company.

It seems like to get popular you have to be open and then to make money you have to be closed.

Wow, this is yet another (dumb) bold move by Twitter. I'm very curious to see how this unfolds. I could see this triggering a lot of negative exposure to Twitter in the coming days/weeks, if this is how they are going to start silently cutting major developers off.

I don't think they care. Twitter has reached such mainstream exposure even if every person in the tech world leaves them they have enough clout to remain relevant because large news organisations use it as does the general population.

What pisses me off is that twitter did have the opportunity to be an agent for change such as in the Arab spring. Im sure they could have made up revenue by charging for their API rather then cutting it off. Maybe not as much through controlling the entire ecosystem but at least they would have had a higher purpose then turning a huge profit (perhaps they could have just enough to keep the lights on?).

App.net can never become this change agent as they will be too expensive for most in developing countries to use.

The tumblr crowd is not a tech crowd, though. I can guarantee my daughter will side with tumblr over twitter on this, and, as a result, will never have a twitter account.

Twitter API thinks it is a too big to fail social API; and begins to think short term profitability. Like the banking system with subprimes, they believe the mass will always save them from fail. look one blogpost talking about it here http://api500.tumblr.com/post/27360838922/apis-too-big-to-fa... with other ones like GoogleMaps or Facebook.

Indeed, it seems that, cocky and scared, they decided that since they are so big and popular, they don't need 3rd party developers anymore, or at least not as much as they used to. It is a case of digging your own grave by optimizing for short-term gain and then losing in the long run. Pity.

It's just not at all clear to me what they are optimizing, short-term or long-term. What's the old saying, "dance with the guy who brung you?"

I dunno know... Would like to seem them do some deals. Seems like they are just picking up their toys...? Bait and Switch not the image you want for your brand. So much public goodwill, a pity go to waste. Maybe they are hiding a Trump card somewhere? With apple or something else.

They may be just getting their ducks in a row before launching something biggish.

Without consensus about (1) which metrics are important to Twitter, and (2) how to maximise them, these comments about them being dicks are just emotional responses.

Nothing wrong with that: getting burned by Twitter as a developer or user is worth other people's attention, as we all try to understand what to make of it.

Emotional? I have absolutely nothing invested in this, and I can objectively observe that Twitter are being dicks.

Also, the apologist's response "it makes business sense" doesn't offset the fact that it is a dick move.

I find it odd and somewhat worrying that so many people seem adhere to the logic "if there's a business reason for it, it's okay". The way Twitter treats the ecosystem around Twitter is quite definitely not okay, no matter what the rationale behind it is.

Why don't they have the right to control how third parties use their APIs? It costs money to maintain them after all, they can do what they want.

I'm not saying it's smart. The level of legitimate FUD they're creating around their developer products is tantamount to sending Guido to kick down your door, point a meaty sausage finger one inch from the bridge of your nose and growl "Fuck You."

Personally I think they would have more to gain by being a better citizen of the open web development community, but clearly they've decided that they can't run the risk of anyone else finding a way to extract more value out of their users than they can. Is that wrong because in the beginning we thought they were fluffy?

opmininion, As a mass market service, Twitter has many more stakeholders than just management. And all these stakeholders have their own metrics.

Unfortunately at this point for Twitter, it's not just about optimizing this metric or that. They have millions of groups of people they need to satisfy (basically, everyone) at the same time as turning a buck.

Think of miners in SE Asia: digging up jungle to get to gold (Papua New Guinea). They have shareholders, management, employees, the local population, the local governement, the government where they are incorporated etc etc etc

Being a mass media consumer play like Twitter means the number of stakeholders you have is huge. And you have to keep them ALL happy to stay relevant (well, the majority... or a big number).

"You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain."

It happened to Microsoft. Then more recently to Apple. Now we're even questioning Google's policies.

Who ever wrote that line is a genius.

I have a hard time seeing Microsoft as the hero anywhere on the timeline, but I take your point. ;-)

It's a very insightful quote, and I think it speaks to a truism of any long-lived group of people (from companies on up to societies), or any entity with significant political or economic power.

I might be a bit cynical for my age, but I think government and laws and corporations and patents and copyrights that were supposed to protect the little guy from The Man have ended up turning the little guy into The New Man who is now the villain.


It's a classic Batman quote, made by the Jekyll&Hyde-ish Two Face.

Indeed who wrote that line?

One of the Nolan brothers?

Twitter is being a bit of a dick.

Twitter is killing itself... http://api500.tumblr.com/image/27419960753 Poor Twitter...

Twitter seems not respecting API neutrality (same paradigm as Internet neutrality), the fact that all API 3rd-party users may have the same rights, access and limits to your API, if they satisfy same primary conditions (free or paying users)

Instagram, Linkedin, Tumblr...who's next?

They have gone crazy since they want to have their "consistent user experience"...

As much as we'd all love to have a concept like API neutrality, in reality there is no such thing. Level playing fields are not good business because they destroy differentiation and defensibility of value. Personally, I think there are many business models that work on open, neutral systems but I'm in the minority.

re: "consistent user experience"

That's the thing, they just need to make the UX so badass that users will want to use your products instead of a 3rd party. Problem solved. Instead, they are just being lazy and squashing anyone who tries to innovate on their platform. Considering every feature on Twitter.com started on 3rd party clients, they're just shooting themselves in the foot.

But then again, that's assuming you believe it is about "consistent user experience", which I think it likely 5% of the real answer.

I don't believe so much to the consistent twitter experience alibi, because I just never trust or believe in companies highly funded which have not still a proven viable business model. To my mind , they are at the mercy of their short term vision investors which oblige them to monetize everywhere in all possible short term strategies.

> short term vision investors which oblige them to monetize everywhere in all possible short term strategies.

That's actually the public stock market. Private equity investors can vary anywhere from extremely patient, to being as impatient as public share holders. In Twitter's case, it's a 6-year old service that is peaking in valuation ($10 billion) unless it can find some new source of revenue growth, so I'd imagine the investors are getting a little ancy.

Twitter bought Posterous which is a direct competitor to tumblr, so this does not surprise me.

They want to short-form into long-form. They're going for increasing their piece of pie size. It makes sense, though I wonder if it'll hurt them in the future.

They did the same thing with Instagram, I think Twitter are doing this because these competing websites are generating a lot of new users for those websites while leaving Twitter in the dark on growth, revenue, etc. Twitter sees this as significant competition, although I don't really see how blocking these "competitors" from using the Twitter API helps Twitter?

I have said it before and I will say it again... for some reason, twitter is taking themselves way too seriously with all of these recent developments. Anyone who competes indirectly is clearly not wanted. What a shame.

It is going to be painful when any free service starts wanting to make money.


2010: $45 million 2011: $140 million 2012: ??

Sounds like they're doing ok to me.

Twitter has 1000 employees, at 100k a pop (with taxes, benefits, it's prob higher) that's 100mm/year in salary expenses alone. Let's talk servers, bandwidth, office space, and they dive into the red really fast.

Wait, why the frik do they have 1k employees?

And yet they can't block obvious spam: new accounts posting @mentions with spammy words and links.

> Wait, why the frik do they have 1k employees?

I'd bet a large number of those folks are sales folks pushing Twitter's various ad options.

Holy crap that's a lot of employees. I was imagining something like 100-200 at most, which leaves plenty of $$ to pay for servers etc.

I wonder what all those employees are doing.

>> I wonder what all those employees are doing

Finding new ways to limit the api and shoot themselves in the foot.

It does sound slightly less when you consider they've taken nigh on a billion in funding.

Revenue, sure. Profitability?

It's an interesting theory though: critical mass matters less to users (in a business sense - obviously it matters from the expectations of community standpoint) than it does to other potential partners. The user expectation of Twitter is that it will remain free, but maybe it's worth something to Tumblr and FB to have access to that mass. If successful, it can get very interesting from a business perspective.

Following recent rumors that Apple would buy a chunk of Twitter, maybe Twitter begins to close itself to fit with Apple vision of closed but mainstream and consistent user experience.

I'd be highly surprised if Apple took such a step - such an acquisition, or major investment, wouldn't bring Apple any greater profit, in exchange for billions. Given Apple's tendency to make any purchases as small as possible, I suspect we've seen all of their involvement - some fee in exchange for the unhindered embedding of Twitter posting within iOS and Mountain Lion.

To me, the most likely reason which explains the "consistent user experience" quote is simply the matter of presenting ads, and being certain that every single user is seeing them, unfiltered.

Way to go, Twitter. It's really a shame that they're doing these kind of shitty things. Makes you wonder what are they planning to do...

I imagine this is going to occur a lot more with twitter competing in complementary spaces with both branch and medium.

This is all fine and all, but I wonder if the average user cares?

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