Twitter Decides To Kill Its Ecosystem: How Not To Run A Modern Company

from the big-mistake dept

This is really unfortunate news. It really wasn't that long ago that we were praising Twitter for how it dealt with the issue of third parties building on its ecosystem. The company took a very permissive approach, letting other providers do all sorts of things that really helped to make Twitter much more valuable in the long run, including create a whole variety of client apps that really pushed Twitter. I know that my own recognition of why Twitter was valuable didn't really come about until I started using some third party apps, that let me do much, much more and get much more value out of Twitter. However, on Friday, Twitter appeared to want to cut off all that goodwill and value adding by telling third parties (effectively) to stop making Twitter apps. It appears the company will allow a few legacy apps to be grandfathered in, but new apps-makers are forewarned to stay away. This comes a little while after Twitter shut down some third party apps it claimed were "misbehaving."

The reasoning behind this new prohibition are, frankly, ridiculous and totally unbelievable. Specifically, it claims that "people are confused" by these third party apps. Of course, in my case, and in the case of almost everyone I know who uses a third party app (and I don't know anyone who actually uses Twitter's official app), we weren't confused, we were enlightened by those third party apps providing much more context and value to Twitter. The new rules basically remove a large amount of the flexibility that the existing third party providers can use to add more value to Twitter. This is Twitter both trying to control the developer market and to take it back over itself. This is a dangerous move that could seriously hurt the developer ecosystem around Twitter, and push people to alternatives. Even if developers think they can live within the rules, these recent changes might get them to think twice about building on Twitter since it could change the rules further. As per usual, Mathew Ingram summarizes nicely why this is a bad business move, even if it's designed to benefit Twitter's business:
Without the help of third-party apps like Tweetie and Tweetdeck, the company likely would not have been nearly as successful at building the network (and a ready-made client like Tweetie certainly wouldn’t have been sitting there waiting to be acquired). But the ecosystem didn’t just build demand for the network -- it also helped build and distribute the behavior that now makes Twitter so valuable: the @ mentions, the direct messages, re-Tweets and so on, none of which were Twitter’s idea originally. That created a huge amount of goodwill, and led to the (apparently mistaken) idea of an ecosystem.

It’s all very well for Twitter to claim ownership of all those things now, since it is their platform. And obviously there are businesses that can get away with being arbitrary or dictatorial -- Apple is well known for such behavior, after all, and it is one of the most valuable companies on the planet. But this only works over the longer term if your product is so unique and compelling that people will put up with it. Is Twitter in that category?
The company may get away with this in the short-term, but this is a hugely risky long term move that seems to have a high likelihood of backfiring. Going against those who helped get you where you are is a very dangerous move. For a company that used to seem so welcoming, it's a pretty rapid about face.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 2:45am

    Following the Apple business model

    It really doesn't work for anyone else. Twitter may be popular but someone will fill the void if they choose to take the close-minded route. And it's not as if they've got an ultra-lucrative pile of proprietary hardware to fall back on.

     

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    Miff (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 2:49am

    This is just the final nail in the coffin.

    Twitter stopped being developer friendly the second they discontinued the easy-to-use REST API for an incomplete untested version of oAuth.

     

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      FuzzyDuck, Mar 14th, 2011 @ 6:37am

      Re:

      Indeed. oAuth is a disaster that makes it nearly impossible to make small scripts that work with Twitter (unless you add the useless oAuth bloat). I run everything through http://identi.ca/ these days.

       

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    Geek Hillbilly, Mar 14th, 2011 @ 2:51am

    Yep,it will backfire and a lot sooner than the dumbass corporate mentality thinks..I'm gonna start looking for another site who doesn't have their heads up their ass.

     

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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 3:06am

    Danged kids!

    Get orf my LAWN!

     

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    MarksAngel (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 3:16am

    I think it's time for everyone to move to identi.ca with status.net being open source there is no fear of issues such as these.

     

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    Hiiragi Kagami (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 3:34am

    Wait...

    ... so why is that "Tweet" button still showing up on Techdirt?

    This is no different than a third party app.

    Remove the button, please.

    Then, tell all websites to remove the button.

    Once Twitter sees its usage drop like a stone, then perhaps this will be the only way they'll learn their lesson.

     

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    Blatant Coward (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 3:44am

    When twitter loses the 'old twitter' function, and disallows option that are simple, do not force trending, ooo ooo you should follow ads, and 'sponsored twits' I will definitely have no use for twitter.

     

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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 4:21am

    StatusNet / Identi.ca

    I have recently signed up for a StatusNet account, in the anticipation of the exodus of Twitter. :) Now if only Tweetdeck for Android would support it.

     

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      MarksAngel (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 4:22am

      Re: StatusNet / Identi.ca

      With this stuff going down on twitter I'm sure it's only a matter of time.

       

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      Yeebok (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 5:45am

      Re: StatusNet / Identi.ca

      When I get my desire HD I might just start on one..

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2011 @ 5:57am

      Re: StatusNet / Identi.ca

      Both suck and for people seeking attention. I'm surprised twitter lasted this long, and it is probably due to their huge PR campaign.

       

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        Killercool (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 6:03am

        Re: Re: StatusNet / Identi.ca

        Actually, I have a whole bunch of friends and associates who enjoy Twitter for reasons I refuse to comprehend, NOT because of any ads. Personally, I avoid as much social networking as possible, since I have nightmares of my internet tubes being clogged with innumerable Snooki clones.

         

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          greg.fenton (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 10:43am

          Re: Re: Re: StatusNet / Identi.ca

          If you are worried about *your* interwebs being filled with Snooki clones, then you are doing it wrong.

          And this is the whole point. With the social network stuffs (at least, the stuff that survives), it is *you* that defines your interwebs.

          Don't want to hear about someone who constantly tweets their starbucks orders? Drop them!

          What the social interwebs offers is Real Intelligence Filtering. Follow the right people, and information that *you* want, that you don't know about or even know you want, flows to you. And if you aren't drinking from the hose when the news is flowing, if it is a fleeting blip of info whose Best Before date goes by before you get online, it is obsolescent material that does not clog up your inbox.

          This is real-time, crowd-sourced RSS feed of the entire internet. Google is great at finding what you know you want. Social webospheres are great at bringing you things you don't know to look for.

           

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    Jay (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 5:44am

    ...

    So... I take the time to actually start a Twitter right as they decide to shoot themselves in the foot? Great...

     

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    Adam, Mar 14th, 2011 @ 5:52am

    10-to-1 they're getting close to being bought out, and this was one of the terms of sale.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2011 @ 6:02am

    There are VERY few people on this planet...

    ...who are capable of expressing themselves cogently and intelligently in the limited forum provided by twitter. Happily, it seems that all of them write at far more length elsewhere, where they take the time to develop their thoughts in more depth.

    Twitter...is disposable.

     

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    STJ, Mar 14th, 2011 @ 6:14am

    I have never tweeted, I don't see a need to.

     

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      Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 6:53am

      Re:

      Thanks for telling me! I have been trying to follow you but could never find you. Now I can stop searching. I have always wanted to know what you thought about...anything!

       

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      Joshua Clingenpeel, Mar 14th, 2011 @ 11:25am

      Re:

      You have now RT @STJ I have never tweeted, I don't see a need to.

       

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    JeroenW, Mar 14th, 2011 @ 6:19am

    Well, there's some truth to it

    I mean, look at the android market, there's at least 2 dozen twitter apps in there alone and you have to look long and hard to see any differences and even longer to find the best app for whatever you want to get out of twitter.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2011 @ 6:43am

    Re: Well, there's some truth to it

    And that means that Twitter should shut them all down and force us all to use the official app? A healthy variety is a good thing, and especially with Android, why many of us use it. Don't like the keyboard? Get (or make) a different one! Don't like the stock Twitter app? Get (or make) a different one!

    I for one will quit using twitter if I'm stuck using the stock Twitter app. Many of the third-party apps are much better, and each has its own charm. Thanks to these apps, Twitter has become much more of the experience I want, instead of the experience they think I should have.

     

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    Wiggs (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 6:50am

    Sad News...

    I'm actually quite sad to hear this. I've been a casual Twitter follower/user for quite some time, and managed to leverage it during an admission fiasco (my own fault, not theirs, but they helped me anyway!) at PAX East this past weekend.

    I was really very impressed by the power that a public forum like Twitter can create. Hopefully the company will come around, but if we're all forced to exodus to a new place, the same power will only be preserved by everyone moving to the SAME new place.

     

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    paul, Mar 14th, 2011 @ 6:54am

    I use the original twitter for android. I have tried- tweetdeck (multiple times) seesmic, trumpet, twidroyd, twatter, twanger,twetris,twumpoline and twoppopotomus. All to no avail. I keep coming back to the original. I see no problem with a company wanting us to use their original product.

     

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    Ray Beckerman (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 7:39am

    Twitter killing the golden goose

    I agree wholeheartedly with your article. Twitter has been playing these games now, for over a year, as it struggles to "monetize", in the process killing the golden goose.

    What I've been waiting for is an aggressive microblogging competitor to come along. I've been disappointed that statusnet or friendfeed hasn't stepped up more strongly.

     

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      Marcel de Jong (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 8:26am

      Re: Twitter killing the golden goose

      It would indeed be nice, if StatusNet and or Friendfeed came out with a press release saying that Microblogging tool developers are more than welcome to their API.
      Perhaps help crystallize it, and make it hardened for the future.
      Or something like that. Let Twitter (and the rest of the world) know that there is more than just Twitter in the micro-blogging arena.

       

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    Vlad (small business blog), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 8:16am

    So when?

    So when are we going to see ads in all Twitter clients and inability to unfollow ad-spitting bots, courtesy of Twitter itself?

     

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    Shon Gale (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 8:22am

    Another one bites the dust!

     

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    DearMrMiller (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 9:06am

    Twitter?

    Twitter is a foreign language to those that don't actually use the service that often.. filled with #'s and @'s and other strange symbols difficult to divine to the person not steeped in the protocol. Twitter is a lot of noise and very little signal. It's never experienced the breakaway success that Facebook had and for those reasons I think it will die a death eventually and this sounds distinctly of a hammer driving another nail. It's great for already existing pundits/celebrities/journalists/media types to amplify their already existing fan bases.. but I think that for the normal person it's a waste of time.

    Check out the trends:

    http://www.google.com/trends?q=twitter%2C+facebook&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all&am p;sort=0

    One thing this reveals to me is that the news reference volume, on par with Facebook, far outweighs the actual traffic. Of course it does, it's favoured by the media as another bullhorn and they're biased towards its purpose but the person on the street can't really be bothered. So we have artificially inflated cultural value that, to me, offers little besides an echo chamber of noise.

     

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      greg.fenton (profile), Mar 14th, 2011 @ 12:33pm

      Re: Twitter?

      If you are getting a lot of noise and little signal, then you are using it wrong.

      Follow people who tweet good content. Don't follow the bad.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2011 @ 6:06pm

        Re: Re: Twitter?

        I've generally found that the people I want to follow (people like Notch) don't have any means to categorize their tweets and I don't have any means to filter them, so I keep my Twitter use down to letting Identi.ca mirror my notices to Twitter for the convenience of others.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2011 @ 12:27pm

    I've joined identi.ca as a result of this article. The only trouble is nobody else I know has. I'm not famous and quite pleased that 90 people find me interesting enough to follow. Building all that up again on another microblogging service seems arduous.

     

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    Duh, Mar 14th, 2011 @ 10:54pm

    If the real issue is misbehaving apps, then why not set request limits on the server side of twitter to block apps that make too many requests?

    I know the answer! Because that's common sense, and common sense don't make money. ;)

    Either way, I don't really care. I found the few twitter apps I tried to be limited. Only so many tweets showed up in the history.

    I eventually ended up using an RSS feed reader as my twitter client. It's not perfect, but much more powerful. Much more results and an unlimited tweet history.

     

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