August 20, 2012
Twitter has released new guidance regarding their policy toward 3-rd party developers on the Twitter platform. While the technical details are pretty confusing for non-app developers, the impact of the new guidelines is going to be felt by everyday users.
Here’s the basic details you need to know:
1 – Twitter wants to rank you. Systems like Klout got spared from a lot of the new regulations that Twitter is putting forth. That means that Twitter is more interested in how you rank compared to others, regardless of how you get that rank. Due Disclosure: I use Klout as a way to see what I appear to be influential in across my social networks.
2 – You should only be using official Twitter clients to get your feed. This is the one that has pissed off the entire 3-rd party community. The new rules make it difficult (though far from impossible) for non-Twitter client tools to work, or at least continue working the same way they do today. That means apps you use every day like Echofon, TweetBot, Oosfora, and tons of others must either change the way the work — quickly — or risk being cut off from Twitter’s network.
So why is Twitter doing this? Same reason as everything anyone does… money. Twitter makes money by selling advertising. 3rd-party clients traditionally don’t show the advertising at all, or at least not the same way that the official Twitter clients and website do. This means that if you use a 3rd-party client, then you may be missing ad content, and costing Twitter money.
Secondly, Twitter can make more money when they target ads to people who will see them and share them most. That means Twitter needs to rank users, to serve the right ads at the right price to the right people. Since they have very few native tools to do this, Twitter is giving systems like Klout a lot more… well… clout.
I can’t fault Twitter for wanting to make money. It is a business first and foremost, and the goal of any business is to gain revenue and market share. However, by turning their backs on 3-rd party software developers, Twitter is hurting itself. Most of the innovations that Twitter has adopted into its own software were developed by non-Twitter developers. Even Twitter’s own client software on many platforms was actually purchased from 3rd-party developers and re-branded as Twitter’s own.
I believe this is a very bad move on Twitter’s part. As they continue to restrict innovation, they continue to risk becoming stagnant and losing market share. Other services will rise up to fill the gaps soon enough (see App.Net as one example) and eventually one will overtake Twitter if this keeps up.
For now, most of the major app developers have said they think they can re-rig their apps to fit within the new rules. While functionality will be lost, the apps will survive — at least short term. Hang in there, hopefully Twitter will see the error of their raise when they start losing money instead of making more.