On Mar 11, 4:18 pm, Ryan Sarver <rsar...@twitter.com> wrote:
> With more people joining Twitter and accessing the service in multiple ways,
> a consistent user experience is more crucial than ever.  As we talked about
> last April, this was our motivation for buying Tweetie and developing our
> own official iPhone app.  It is the reason why we have developed official
> apps for the Mac, iPad, Android and Windows Phone, and worked with RIM on
> their Twitter for Blackberry app. As a result, the top five ways that people
> access Twitter are official Twitter apps.

Something doesn't sound right here.  The official reasoning has some
contradictions in it:

* You're telling us that Twitter's own apps are topping the market,
and that an overwhelming majority of people are engaging with Twitter
using your own tools.

* In the same message, you say that people are confused about how to
engage with Twitter. You blame non-standard third party interfaces --
but if they're just a small minority of user contact points with
Twitter, wouldn't the impact be fairly low-level and mitigated by the
superior first-party experience?

* In that message and in subsequent followups, you tell us that client
applications will be "held to a higher bar."  This seems to imply that
the standards for acceptance or rejection are qualitative; however,
the revised Terms of Service imply that they are objective.  Which is
it?  Is it "If you implement X, we'll cut you off" -- or is it "We
encourage you not to implement X, but if you do, we'll decide whether
you're any good at it?"

Fundamentally, here's what doesn't smell right to me: if the superior
quality of Twitter's first-party platform is winning in the
marketplace, as you say it is, _why bother with this?_  The perceived
threat to the user experience doesn't make sense.  New users who don't
understand Twitter yet aren't going to pick up third-party clients;
they're going to follow the brand name.  They'll go to Twitter.com, or
buy a book, or ask their friends.  (If the books or friends are
confused, new API terms won't help.)

GOOD third-party clients don't compete with Twitter for new user
share.  They pick up the power users who've used Twitter for a while
and want to use it more, or who have particular needs or tastes, or
who _like_ crazy non-standard designs.  Shutting them down won't help
new users, and it won't enable current users to do things better.
It'll just turn power users into non-power users, or in some cases
into non-users.  The most valuable users don't settle for 'good
enough.'  If Twitter doesn't let them do things their own way, they'll
find a platform that does, or make one.

BAD third-party clients don't compete with Twitter at all.  They just
don't have users.  People don't use things that suck.  For the most
part, things that suck are rarely even noticed.  A million bad rock
bands aren't a threat to the Rolling Stones, and a million bad Twitter
applications aren't a threat to Twitter.

Finally, there's the damping effect on improvement.  Most of the
innovation in Twitter did not originate within Twitter.  Good ideas
climb upwards, and the best make it to the top of the canopy (the
official platform).  Bad ideas become compost and lessons learned.  If
you don't encourage this competition for sunlight, everything rots or
fossilizes.  This is obvious.  Smart people won't fail to consider it.

I think Ryan and Raffi know this.  I think it's even possible that
they agree with some of it but can't say so.  I can't imagine that the
backlash would take anyone at Twitter by surprise; it's inconceivable
that there was no discussion at all about the repercussions of telling
developers what they can and can't develop.  Ryan and Raffi are
technical people, and they advocate for the geeks.  Limiting the
freedom to create isn't the sort of decision that gets made by
technical people, or for technical reasons.

Something else is going on.  This was a business decision, probably
made from the top in defiance of cost/benefit analyses from those who
built the platform, and wrapped up as customer advocacy.  It doesn't
make _sense_, because the customers were never really at risk, but
then that wasn't the goal.  Corporate policy statements always have to
tell you how they're making things better, even if no one believes it,
because an honest "We need to make a profit" leaves a bad taste in PR

Even so, though...  Something feels off.  This doesn't make
_intrinsic_ sense, not just marketing sense.  Someone is obviously
looking a few moves ahead, but what's the upside?  Twitter's delivered
a major upset to developers, but they're at no real risk from them and
have relatively few immediate revenue channels to protect.  The up-and-
coming revenue channels could have been worked into the API, and third
party clients pushed to leverage and grow them.  Instead, they're
being blocked.  "If you're winning, you don't need to change the
rules" is logic any businessman should understand.

So what's going on?  What's really behind this?


Have Fun,
   Steve Eley (sfe...@gmail.com)
   ESCAPE POD - The Science Fiction Podcast Magazine

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