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Twitter Just Shut Down Ribbon’s Newly Launched In-Stream Payments Feature (techcrunch.com)
143 points by 6thSigma 1747 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 57 comments

Are you surprised?

Why don't we all go back to AOL and Geocities. The problem with Twitter is that it is not clear exactly what their approach to their revenue problem might be. I understand they want to monetize their API but does that go hand-in-hand with quashing every potential competitor who happens to use the API with a modicum of success?

I'm bearish about any company that builds a data warehouse on the basis of access and open-ness and then decides to restrict that access at a later date for the sake of profitability. It's just distasteful and speaks volumes.

This is a great example of why you should never build a business on Twitter: http://bostinno.streetwise.co/2013/03/04/how-twitter-came-to...

Partnering with Twitter is still quite reasonable, but creating an Enterprise based upon their APIs is foolish at best.

I wouldn't touch Twitter without a contract signed by my company and by Twitter. Any attempt to utilize their content consumers for anything other than reading content you produce has been shown to be at extreme risk of termination.

I don't believe Twitter doesn't know how they are going to generate revenue. I'm not convinced they can actually implement their ideas, but, if they had no ideas, I think they would be letting other companies throw themselves at the wall, then picking off the ones that stick via acquisitions. That they just squash them implies they think they know what they are doing.

You are right. I'm going through this exact same thing with the reddit api and chrome app store.

A lot of api providers seem to have a few limited (mostly lame) use cases in mind. Developers by their nature are creative boundry pushers. Conflict is inevitable.

I just wish api providers would take greater care in thinking about and describing what exactly is going to be allowed and not. Rather than putting something out there, having developers throw things at the wall, then banning things you don't like after the fact.

But they don't, it's a painful lesson to learn.

> Rather than putting something out there, having developers throw things at the wall, then banning things you don't like after the fact.

I would think that being able to operate that way is exactly the reason you want to offer an API. So that your users can come up with ideas for you. Trying to anticipate up front every conceivable use of an API and publishing it with a huge list of rules based on conjecture makes for a pretty crappy API.



First I used the reddit api, when reddit cut that off I was able to crowdsource a data feed from users through a browser extension.

Then reddit convinced google to have unedditreddit removed from the app store. I switched to a firefox extension now so we will see what happens.

Why don't they just charge for this? You want to setup an in-stream payment solution? Great here is the API - its .10 each time its called (or whatever).

Further, why does twitter make it hard to pay them for API use?

maybe because it would turn twitter into a cheap looking barrage of pay links.

I also would not pay for sex with my girlfriend if she would start all over sudden start charging me for sex. It seems twitter has to learn something about relationships.

You'd also be foolish to assume a hooker that charms you is your girlfriend and will have sex with you for free.

Your analogy is incorrect.

But that's just hearsay and conjecture -- we don't know it was turned off for "profitability" reasons or whatever. In fact Ribbon's blog indicates that Twitter was very receptive to the idea: http://blog.ribbon.co/an-update-on-in-stream-payments-on-twi...

Further, we haven't heard Twitter's side to this -- was there a violation of the TOS that the Tech bloggers didn't catch (or bother finding the other side of the story?)

Essentially you're jumping the gun in saying that Twitter is two-faced ("They say they're open but they're really not") all based upon no data or concrete evidence.

> Essentially you're jumping the gun in saying that Twitter is two-faced ("They say they're open but they're really not") all based upon no data or concrete evidence.

Yes because I can't think of any other examples where Twitter has screwed developers.... Oh wait....

Yes, there might be a TOS issue here (and maybe even a valid one) but their track record makes it pretty clear that they just don't give a shit about developers.

We have heard Twitter's side: they turned off the service.

> I'm bearish about any company that builds a data warehouse on the basis of access and open-ness and then decides to restrict that access at a later date for the sake of profitability. It's just distasteful and speaks volumes.

They have changed their terms for third party integration about 2 years ago (somebody correct me) and since then strongly discourage third parties from trying to leverage Twitter for their own profit. Anyone seriously betting on getting away despite the publicly expressed discouragement from 2 years ago is getting what is to be expected.

Throwing in my 2 cents:

It looks like what Ribbon submitted to the Twitter validator was a video using the "player" card: http://cl.ly/image/2R2i1J302Z2g

The player card is designed to handle embedding videos, which is what Ribbon initially showed, however when they launched their new feature they morphed the embedding options to display a custom in-stream purchase button / unit.

In reality, they should have just used a 'product' card (granted, they would not have the added ability to purchase in stream - it would need to link back to their website).

Using the player card was a pretty clever way to get the payments to happen directly on twitter, but it seems that it bent too many of their rules. They'll probably just have to use the product card like everyone else.

Spot on. It was a bait and switch and violation of TOS.

Chirpify has been enabling in-stream commerce and payments on Twitter for over a year now. Also in-stream on Instagram and Facebook. No TOS violations http://chirpify.com

Completely agree. It's clear that they found a loophole in order to do something that twitter had no intentions of permitting.

It is very likely that a user would find these cards and inadvertently start a purchase without realizing that this actually not supported by twitter.

Twitter wants to validate each domain that has a card so they can approve & exert control. They cannot control what products a ribbon customer promotes via ribbon. If I wanted to sell illegal drugs or child pornography photographs, those would show up on twitter.com & twitter apps in a nice card-like experience complete with a 'Buy Now' button.

That's why they shut it down.

It's likely because it's all wrapped up in Twitter's web interface. To the average user, it looks like you just paid Twitter for something. If you have any sort of problem with shipping or the product itself, you're likely going to go back to where you bought it from: Twitter.

They're simply protecting themselves from a series of problems that would be completely out of Twitter's control to help in any way. Twitter would always come up the loser for any of Ribbon's mistakes. They don't even have a way to punt any support issues over to Ribbon.

To be fair, it does say "Not affiliated with Twitter" in a blue background.

Many people wouldn't read or remember that detail.

Really? Because it's pretty prominent. It's the first attention-seeking detail after the Buy Now button.

There are plenty of porn and drug references on Twitter already. Twitter doesn't care.

It's very clear that Twitter want to control every possible aspect of the monetisation of Twitter.

Given the earlier fallout with the twitter 3rd-party clients, and similar things going on on other "platforms" I think we need a new name for these services other than "platform" (since it is not stable, it's a bit of a misnomer) but more specific than "service".

I propose "network traps", "progress sinks" or "sucker tub". I don't know but I keep getting a recurring imagery when thinking of these situations as of someone building a house on a raft, which immediately capsizes, but the buoyancy of the house causes the raft to lift out of the water.

Yes because it would be TERRIBLY hard to institue a whitelist for domains that could be issued twitter cards and have an API call to register and either allow or not allow it.

all I really mean by this that if Twitter were not being malicious here they would be able to work with Ribbon and other companies who have similar ideas that could help change the internet for the better.

I don't buy your logic. Why wouldn't the same apply to Vine or Instagram?

because vine is owned by twitter, and instagram doesn't have any twitter card support anymore.

Curious what happened here: the Twitter Cards Player options clearly require pre-approval by Twitter for custom cards. Did Ribbon present one thing when going through the approval process and then change the player after the release?

I've often said that my platform is called the Internet.

Or as I said here: https://twitter.com/davidu/status/313826471019954176

The risk to sharecropping on another platform just seems too great to outweigh the audience / signup / integration / etc. benefits.

It's called PCI. Unless there was a contract between Ribbon & Twitter this is not at all okay since they were taking payments within the same origin of twitter.com, thus bringing twitter.com into scope of PCI compliance for Ribbon. This was a really basic mistake if there was no contract. Everyone who knows anything about PCI understands this very well.

Here's the post about this on Ribbon's blog:


The preview doesn't look anything like their final implementation. That preview looks like an actual movie player, while the final card screenshots I've seen look like regular content cards with a lot of custom branding.

This looks like a clever hack of the Twitter implementation of the Player card and not the intended use. The stream and content type attributes both are empty, for example. Does anyone know if this sort of implementation is what that card is supposed to allow?

Sadly, I think you might be right - perhaps Ribbon showed one system, and deployed another.

I say "sadly," as if this is the case, Ribbon have just made every other developer's life that bit more difficult.

I really hope they haven't been that underhand, though.

Indeed. If you look at the screenshot, it looks like they showed Twitter that they would embed a video, but if you follow the URL they're embedding, it goes to the now-banned implementation - https://ribbon.co/086f0a?twitter=true

Maybe it's just an old screenshot though. I don't know.

"What’s interesting is how quickly Twitter reacted to the situation, which makes one wonder who might have brought the violation, or issue, to Twitter’s attention."

Err....TechCrunch, two hours earlier? Or is that the joke?

Hope the Ribbon guys manage to get it resolved. I think it's a great use of the Twitter cards feature and am slightly baffled as to why Twitter would even give developers access to the feature, if only to shut them down immediately afterwards.

I also agree with the sentiment that building anything on Twitter is a risky proposition these days. That said, there's still an appeal in doing so given the volume of users.

So how did this happen? Did someone at Ribbon not bother to check the TOS? Did they check and just think they wouldn't get caught? The article says Ribbon is trying to contact Twitter to find out what happened, I'd think it would make sense to have somewhat closer relations with anyone who has that much power over your company, so you could find out before they shut you down.

From our statement on our blog:

"We’ve had discussions with Twitter in the past, and are eager to find a way to work together."

In these discussions, did they say, "Sure, go ahead.", and then shut you down?

Or did they say "There is no way you can do this, and we will shut you down."?

'Discussions' gives us no information.

"This is clearly something that’s good for Twitter users all over the world."

I can see how it's good for sellers, but am missing how it is so clearly good for me as a buyer (which is what I assume is meant by "Twitter users all over the world"). Is it that I can spend money without learning about what I'm buying beyond what fits into 140 chars that makes it good? Do people do that?

Does Twitter want to scare off every developer? I mean its kind of absurd to just shut down a newly launched service on the same day that it launches. It may violate their policy, fine, change your policy or be friendly with developers to really help them become compliant. This is the Apple/Appgratias thing all over again (in the same week); We don't like what you are doing so we will just shut you down, and boo if you don't like. Imagine how much trust Twitter would get if they would simply work with these app developers instead of drastically changing policy/just making things stop working. Right now, as it stands, I will never even touch their ecosystem in fear that I get more restricted, or even worse, have an entire element of my business shutdown without being able to do anything about it.

Twitter really haven't been doing themselves any favours within the developer community. If not for the constant news we hear of APIs being restricted or cut off completely, it's now the in-stream features as well. Why would any developer now want to work with them?

I just don't....get Twitter at the moment. It'd be nice to have some clarification of why they wish to pursue this draconian mindset, but that's asking too much. I'm surprised that services such as Buffer have came so far.

I remember laughing hysterically when I read the phrase "command line for the web" a long time ago. The money has to come from somewhere eventually.

My guess would be that Twitter has had plans to offer the same functionality.

That's a good point. At this moment, I'd say they are open to anything that makes them money.

"News story at 11, major roadway cuts off local roadside merchants"

All hail our glorious leader Twitter, they know what's right. This isn't all too surprising, Twitter have definitely had their fair share of third party shutdowns and controversies, the problem here is that Twitter could care less about anyone else's business that uses their API, even if it means more Twitter users or even a potential offer for partnership and profit. This is an idea that Twitter themselves should have officially got behind, no doubt we'll see something like this from Twitter eventually.

It's a genius idea, but sadly Ribbon just wasted a lot of time and money building a product they can't use. A painful lesson, never build a business on Twitter.

Is Twitter trying to scare developers off of it's platform!?

No, it just tracks which developer has good ideas, makes their applications against TOS and then implements the same thing badly.

... or forces successful devs to sell.

That's a really good idea that was never going to work with modern Twitter. Old style Twitter? Maybe.

There's probably many reasons why Twitter shut it down, but there's also many reasons why developing a product around Twitter these days is, frankly, kind of batshit crazy.

How long until the "Twitter Launches In-Stream Payments" post? I feel like when Twitter was young, it would reward developers for building new ideas on the platform; now it punishes them.

A valuable lesson. I think I will consult a lawyer for my startup idea. Have been thinking about it but this gave me the push I needed. Really too bad this company didn't do its homework.

HAHA! Called this as soon as I saw Perez's article...humble brag? No surprised at all.

Chirpify has been enabling in-stream commerce and payments on Twitter for over a year now. Also in-stream on Instagram and Facebook. http://chirpify.com

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