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.

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Companies: twitter

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Comments on “Twitter Decides To Kill Its Ecosystem: How Not To Run A Modern Company”

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34 Comments
greg.fenton (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Wiggs (profile) says:

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.

Ray Beckerman (profile) says:

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.

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

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.

DearMrMiller (profile) says:

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&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.

Duh says:

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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