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Gini Dietrich

As Twitter Locks Out Developers, a New Site Welcomes Them

By: Gini Dietrich | September 26, 2012 | 
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It won’t come to a surprise to many of you that I love Twitter.

It was the first social network I used to really engage and connect with people and it’ll always be my first love.

In the early days, I created a group of friends who we still refer to ourselves as the posse. These are people who refer business to us all the time and who I would call if I were arrested or stuck on the side of the road.

Without the social network, I would have never met some of these people and the idea makes me very sad.

I’ve always contended Twitter wouldn’t last forever. They still haven’t figured out how to make money and, as those of us hyper-involved in the social media world can attest to, they’re beginning to crumble under investor pressure.

As they should.

But the way they’re doing it? It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Until now, Twitter has been an open platform and it’s part of the reason the social network has grown as quickly as it has.

They’ve also let outside developers create new products for the service and have been able to enormously scale.

Earlier this year, they closed their API. What that means is, any developer who created something genius to help Twitter grow no longer has access to their coding, which allows them to increase the features and benefits of their services.

The latest in the death of being able to use Twitter? IFTTT.

So What?

It’s not entirely bothersome to me, as an IFTTT user, that I can’t create recipes to send me updates from Twitter to my phone, text message, or email.

During the Olympics, many recipes were created to send updates about specific sports or athletes so a person could keep up without being on Twitter all day long.

And non-profit organizations, such as the Red Cross, have been using it to alert people when a natural disaster is coming and how to be prepared.

Imagine that. You create a recipe that follows the Red Cross Twitter stream. And, when they tweet something about the weather in your area, you are updated in a fashion that you know you’ll always have access. Maybe it’s a phone call for some or a Facebook update for others.

But now? As of tomorrow, that ability is gone.

What’s Next?

It pains me an organization would be this close-minded.

I mean, I get it. If I were an investor in Twitter, I’d want to begin seeing a return on my money. I’ve always thought they had a huge opportunity to generate some serious revenue.

Heck, I’d pay for the service because it’s so valuable to me. But, then, they’ve never asked me (or its other users) what I thought.

So I found something new.

app.net.

Actually, Michael Schechter found it and convinced me to check it out.

All you have to do is request an account. It costs $50 a year (or $100 if you’re a developer).

But if you were on Twitter in the early days (I’m talking 2006 and 2007), it feels very much like it did then.

It’s not fancy. There are only two ways to have a conversation with someone – publicly and privately – and there are so few people on it, it’s easy to sort through the stream and figure out who you want to talk to and what it is you want to do.

Sure, it’s missing some of the bells and whistles that I love about Twitter – lists, hashtag searches, a desktop app – but it’ll get there. And guess what? It’s already figured out how to make money.

They’ve opened their API to developers and already have a list of third-party apps and crowdsourced frequently asked questions.

I don’t know that it’ll replace my beloved Twitter for me, but I do know they’d better watch out because more savvy and flexible companies are nipping at their heels…and they already know how to make money.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

143 comments
Tinu
Tinu

I need an app.net tutorial. Also: before I made this comment you had exactly 140 comments. Sorry bout that!

Latest blog post: Tweets

arshimbo
arshimbo

@ginidietrich Now following you cuz @ShellyKramer RT a great piece by you & it includes my buddy @MSchechter. We both like bourbon, too! :-)

nateriggs
nateriggs

Meh. I think it will die before it ever gets off the ground.

 

Pay for play social networks have never really been appealing to the masses.  I mean, I get where his head is with the core values video, but truth be told, there's not enough appeal to build enough trial to keep their business going on membership fees. Likewise, isn't it kind of a cart and horse argument?  For one, why would I pay to be a part of a social network where none of my friends were?  And, what about business social media users?  My own use is probably 70% business at best, so I'm not necessarily concerned with 'fun features'. 

 

But that's me. I can't speak for everyone...

Sprinklr
Sprinklr

@ginidietrich Great article. Twitter considering some interesting moves, like closing down follower count: http://t.co/FWzjjT5Q

rustyspeidel
rustyspeidel

See, why can't Twitter just do that and charge for the API?? I'm sure many large brands would be more than happy to pay. I bet some might be willing to pay a LOT for special feature access.

 

It's like I always say--as soon as the money gets in the way of the user experience, tech products go down the drain. It's happened many times before, it's happening at Facebook now and it's gonna give the revamped MySpace an opening. Same thing could happen here. 

ShaunDakin
ShaunDakin

Yes, I'm not happy with Twitter.   App.net however, is not going to "take off".. it got some hype during the summer in the valley, and some reporters wrote about it, but last I saw 200 users make up 80% of the conversation.

 

There has been an alternative for years that is open and free http://identi.ca/

 

No one uses it.

 

The issue is this, people will go where the people are.  If Twitter is that place, we'll stay.  If people start to leave, bye bye.

 

Twitter is attempting to make money.   That is their right.  If they push too far and alienate their main user base, then they will be punished.  In the market place.

 

However, as long has much of this "internets" thing is "free" to most users, most users simply will not pay for these services.    

 

Best,

 

Shaun Dakin

 

ExtremelyAvg
ExtremelyAvg

I can't imagine a world without Twitter. Of course, I almost never use Twitter for tweeting and get really upset when I see people using it. I hope they learn how to make money. I wish they would simply ask me if I'd like to be a premium subscriber for $5.95 per month, because I would. That would generate some money right there.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Just to clear the recent changes up - it's not that Twitter isn't allowing access to their code or service. It's that they're limiting it to four distinct areas for developer skillsets:

 

1. Engagement: Traditional Twitter clients and Syndication

2. Consumer: Social Influence Ranking

3. Analytics: Social analytics

4. Business: Social CRM, Enterprise clients, Media integration

 

This is to try and ensure the user experience is right for the users that need certain options, and that developers play to these strengths to make the platform better.

 

So, a Jugnoo for example, would fall under Engagement, Analytics and Business. Tweetdeck would fall under Engagement. And so on.

 

It's not a great move by Twitter for developers that have helped get the platform to where it is, but it's not quite as drastic either. Though, I guess, time will tell. :)

MSchechter
MSchechter

@arshimbo @ginidietrich @ShellyKramer mmmmm, bourbon :)

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

 @nateriggs I would pay to have access to a small social network that was a niche for the things I'm interested in.... or to weed out the 20-somethings who make the hoax RIPs trend.... but maybe that's wishful thinking.  I actually really dug G+ when it was in beta and full of tech geeks and photogs.... now, I never visit.

geoffliving
geoffliving

@kenleyneufeld I've been thinking of you, my friend. I see a retreat in my near future!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@Sprinklr Ug. I know! I was just reading that.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @rustyspeidel I think so, too. I want them to make money. I'd love for them to have many different revenue streams. But don't call it in the name of user experience when most of the third-party apps are better than what they've created.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @ShaunDakin I totally agree it's their right to make money and I'm not claiming app.net is *the* answer to Twitter...only that it's another tool to check out. I really like it because it feels very much like the early days of Twitter. You know, when no one was on it and people didn't understand it. I also like it because they've already figured out one revenue stream. 

y0mbo
y0mbo

@ginidietrich Cool. See you there!

MSchechter
MSchechter

@Danny Brown very true, but they are clearly diminishing the importance of the engagement quadrant. And that's where and why I use the service.

Rodriguez247
Rodriguez247

 @Danny Brown I've looked around Twitter's site for more info, because as @ginidietrich mentioned, most of the stuff that is being written about this is mostly what people think is going to happen. Thanks for clarifying, and I too feel that it's not a great move to just shut out the developers that helped its growth, but maybe putting them in categories, and let the developers flourish on their own merit. 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @Danny Brown Based on what I'm reading, the tools (such as Jugnoo) that help people manage Twitter better are next. But you would know more than I would about it...seeing as you're working directly with them and I'm just reading what people think is going to happen.

nateriggs
nateriggs

 @AmyMccTobin Fair enough. I use Path for that and it's free. Limited to 50 people per network which keeps you close to your real life friends.  G+ is good for that with circles, but to your point, it's hit or miss in terms of activity

kenleyneufeld
kenleyneufeld

@geoffliving make the retreat in California. ;-)

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

 @MSchechter  Here's a question to that post - we're power users. Does the general public even care about half of this, or even know? We're discussing it because we're in the industry and space but my wife couldn't give two hoots, and hasn't even heard of Twitter and its dev "battle".

 

It will come down to how much the mass market cares, since they're a larger chunk of the pie now. And Twitter is clearly moving into more analytical services now, which adds benefit to the brand equation.

 

it could be one of the best things Twitter's ever done, or it could be platform suicide. We'll find out sooner rather than later.

bhas
bhas

 @ginidietrich  @Danny Brown From what I have read this crackdown is focused on consumer oriented apps, not enterprise. Danny, am I talking sense?

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

 @ginidietrich It's more like they're going after those that are breaking the agreements with Twitter, as well as making the experience less than good. They're scared folks will correlate a crappy experience with Twitter as opposed to the second-rate app that's causing the experience. They clearly don't want to lose users for that reason, so it's clamp-down time. There are many different takes on the reasoning behind it.

 

As an example, one of the largest social monitoring companies in this space lost access to the Twitter firehose, because they broke the API agreements. So you can start to see what Twitter's up against - if the big boys are doing it (and they can afford to pay Twitter for the access), then you can just imagine how much some of the little guys are throttling the agreement.

kenleyneufeld
kenleyneufeld

@geoffliving if you bring family, the holiday retreat is really sweet. Plus, the weather is usually very nice (70-80) at the end of Dec.

geoffliving
geoffliving

@kenleyneufeld I was thinking that San Diego would be awesome.

MSchechter
MSchechter

 @Danny Brown I tend to agree with you that this will be a net positive for Twitter the company. I just still think it's a crappy thing for the devs who helped them get here and shows what kind of decisions they will be making going forward. I also think, as an informed customer, that these are changes that are distinctly not in my favor and the favor of the average, ignorant user. To quote John Gruber, everything I love about Twitter is in the top right quadrant... https://dev.twitter.com/blog/changes-coming-to-twitter-api

MSchechter
MSchechter

 @Danny Brown  @Rodriguez247  @ginidietrich And while I'm arguing (cause I enjoy it). This is something that my beloved Apple is going too far on as well. Omitting useful apps like TextExpander and Moom to offer a "safer" experience is some BS. It hampers innovation. In Apple's case it isn't about cash, it's about perceived safety, but it's the similar, excessive corporate policies that favor the bottom line over the developers and users (even though the users don't know better).

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

 @bhas  @ginidietrich The majority are apps that would be used more by consumers. It's why, when you look at the four models Twitter wants to concentrate third-party apps on, Analytics and Business are the two main quadrants. Consumers (generally) don't care about analytics, but businesses do.

 

If third-party devs can make their tools more geared towards businesses, that will leave Twitter web open more for the consumer audience. More consumers, more use, more ads, etc...

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

 @ginidietrich  @Danny Brown the irony in your comment Gini. Steve Jobs had no problem with 27 different fart noise apps being on his elegant iphone. Or an app that mimics snorting cocaine....I don't mean the sound...white lines that disappear if you roll up a dollar and breathe in while following the line.

 

So in my view Twitter should be ok with anything done with its app or api. I mean farts and coke are ok by steve jobs what could possibly happen to twitter.

MSchechter
MSchechter

 @Danny Brown  @ginidietrich Now you're speaking my language. And thus a paid option was appealing. But I do think you've always been a great voice against crappy business practices and this is really one of them. I understand Twitter's need to turn a profit, but what a crappy way to do it.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

 @MSchechter  @ginidietrich Twitter is a very small part of Jugnoo. We were sensible enough to not out all our eggs in one basket. And, regardless if I was at Jugnoo or not, I'd be in the same boat - you said it yourself countless times before, Mike, if you don't pay for the product, you ARE the product.

MSchechter
MSchechter

 @Danny Brown   @ginidietrich I don't think I could possibly disagree more. And I don't think you would be if Jugnoo was one of those great companies that happened to be in the wrong quadrant either. This isn't about the user. It's about the profit. This makes Twitter worse, not better. 

MSchechter
MSchechter

@Danny Brown @ginidietrich I heart you, but that's some BS. Tweetbot blows Twitters apps away and they are being discouraged. Hell, Twitter killed their Mac App and is limiting what those clients can do. They want us to use the web client so they can control the experience. Not ensure its quality.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Yesterday, when I wrote about IFTTT and how Twitter is locking them out of their API, lots of you said, “What the heck is this tool?” […]

  2. […] to figure out how to clean up its act, have a consistent brand, and make money, so it’s shutting out third-party app developers. Then, Justin Timberlake announced a new MySpace, taking advantage of the hits Facebook has had on […]

  3. […] Yesterday, when I wrote about IFTTT and how Twitter is locking them out of their API, lots of you said, “What the heck is this tool?” […]

  4. […] to figure out how to clean up its act, have a consistent brand, and make money, so it’s shutting out third-party app developers. Then, Justin Timberlake announced a new MySpace, taking advantage of the hits Facebook has had on […]