Thursday, August 16, 2012

Twitter's wrong turn away from developers

Just read Twitter's announcement on Michael Sippey's further developer's guideline to Twitter API.  Their basic message can be summed up as this: Please do not look to support Twitter as social media channel from your cool new app.  Twitter is big enough, and is more interested in making money than attracting more users.

Of course you cannot say that directly.  So Sippey uses a 2x2 chart to illustrate how small impact the new API guideline will have to developers according to the third party app universe seen by Twitter.

Twitter developers can be creative and do things in upper left, lower left and lower right quadrant.  But upper right where individual tweets are displayed and new tweets can be posted by consumers, no developer creativity will be permitted by Twitter.

If you are a developer and using Twitter API, there is a very good chance that it affects you (since most of Twitter API is used to show Timeline and send tweets).  This means that Twitter will not allow your app to become the next Tweetdeck or UberSocial.

I think this is a wrong move.  Not because it gives Twitter a bad name, but because user taste never stays the same.  By encouraging third party development using API, Twitter has been able to build core fans who improved accessibility of Twitter Timeline.

Remember how rapidly Twitter was able to become popular.  It's promise of simple text service that ran from all devices, including iPhone, Blackberry, Android and even feature phones, were reality because of many developer fans who made it easier to use Twitter by providing native clients.  Developers saw the need and created many services that filled the gap between what Twitter was and what Twitter could be.

Today's announcement from Twitter flies in the face of developers who have been and will be helping Twitter to be even a greater public bulletin board.

Twitter's microblogging service is commodity business.  There is no secret sauce that you need to create a service.  Its value is entirely driven by user adoption and activities.  Unless users stay satisfied, they won't be coming back to tweet or read someone else's tweet.  And we know users taste changes as technology evolves.  Twitter is betting that they can change fast enough to keep up with users shifting taste.  I think this is a miscalculation on Twitter's part.  Just take a look at how much trouble Facebook is having just with iPhone and Android apps.  And we all know how fragmented Android market is which is the fastest growing mobile segment.

Instead of alienating developers, more thoughtful approach would have been sharing up-keep cost with developers.  After all it is the developers who are in position to monetize their users.  Twitter does have right to claim a piece of that pie and maintain their infrastructure.

What I see in Twitter is a struggle to find its identity.  Is it a infrastructure company or is it a media company?  Before jumping into media business, I think Twitter should take a long look at itself in the mirror and see how they got here.  Hopefully that will help them see who's adding value to Twitter.  It's developers and users who uses their apps.

No comments:

Post a Comment