Steve, thanks for the email. Some inline responses below...

Ryan Sarver
@rsarver <>

On Wed, Mar 16, 2011 at 8:24 PM, Steve Eley <> wrote:

> On Mar 11, 4:18 pm, Ryan Sarver <> 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.

90% logging in once a month is one measurement. We can't currently measure
tweet views which would be the best measurement of consumption. I wouldn't
say that Twitter is the overwhelming majority of the way people consume
twitter, but it's the majority and trending in that favor.

> * 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?

While Twitter owned and operated clients are the majority, but not the
overwhelming majority, there is still a lot of confusion for mainstream
users across the fractured experiences.

> * 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?"

Clearly people have taken this to mean something I didn't intend. When I
said "higher bar" I meant that relative to the previous TOS. I don't mean it
in an arbitrary, qualitative way. While we don't recommend it as a business,
we aren't going to be turning off clients as long as they stay within the
articulated TOS. Obviously there are a number of smaller international
markets, use cases and devices that our clients don't address and these are
great for niche clients.

> 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, or
> buy a book, or ask their friends.  (If the books or friends are
> confused, new API terms won't help.)

Why bother? Because on a weekly, if not daily basis, we get asked by
developers, entrepreneurs, angels and VCs for "more guidance and
transparency". If we know we are going to invest heavily in a space and feel
that a consistent user experience is key to onboarding more new users and
optimizing the network effects, then we need to communicate that to
everyone. The email was meant to be blunt, and we know it's not a message
that everyone wants to hear. Some people have taken acception to the
bluntness of the language, but I think brutal honesty is better than dancing
around the topic with niceties.

> 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.

I totally agree, hence why I called out applications focused on the
enterprise market and marketers like HootSuite, CoTweet and Seesmic. And
again, to be really clear, we aren't shutting down any clients, even ones
focused on the mainstream consumer experience. However, if you're going to
build a "client", we would like to see more of them like CoTweet that focus
on a specific audience with specific needs not addressed by the core Twitter

> 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.

That is mostly true, but we do know of instances where clients were paying
for installs to inorganically grow their audience. Once a user get's used to
an experience, even if its bad, a lot of them stick because it's familiar.
This is why we added a new clause that prevents any clients from buying
market share as users should organically find and use the best ones.

> 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.

We agree with this. A lot of the primitives that we use today like @names,
#tags and RTs all came from users. However, they weren't born out of
clients. They were born out of users leveraging the power of Twitter as a
communications medium. And again, we aren't shutting down clients that
comply with the rules, we just wanted to give guidance that it isn't an area
you should expect to grow a large audience and that we believe a consistent
core experience optimizes network effects which benefits everyone. This
doesn't mean that innovation is dead...

Hope those answers help clarify and add some context.

Let me know if you have more questions.

Best, Ryan

> 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
> mouths.
> 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?
> Anyone?
> --
> Have Fun,
>   Steve Eley (
>   ESCAPE POD - The Science Fiction Podcast Magazine
> --
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