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Read My Beak: No New Twitter Clients

Peek's CEO likes food, hates tweets.

Ryan Sarver, a lead member of Twitter’s Platform Team, posted a thinly veiled edict to third parties looking to cash in on the microblogging service’s runaway popularity. The message: Don’t develop any new Twitter clients, ’cause we ain’t gonna let ’em show Kanye and Charlie’s crazy rants.

While Sarver’s post, entitled “consistency and ecosystem opportunities” is somewhat confusing to a non-developer trying to read it (which is fine, since it’s posted in a dev forum), it more or less amounts to the following:

  • Twitter wants to more closely define its user experience going forward
  • Twitter’s huge, so it can set its own rules and do things like buy Tweetie and use it to build house-brand apps
  • “90% of active Twitter users use official Twitter apps on a monthly basis”
  • Should developers “build client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience(?) The answer is no.”
  • Instead of trying to build a better user client, devs should look into the following areas: Publisher tools, curation, realtime data signals, Social CRM/enterprise clients/brand insights, and value-added content and vertical experiences. If you want to know more about what the heck any of those things are, check out the examples on Ryan’s post. I’m pretty sure you’ll have heard of Foursquare or Instagram, anyway.

I’m a TweetDeck addict, at least on my computers. From my phone I switch between TweetDeck for iOS and Twitter for iPhone, usually depending on my data connection (Twitter is much, much faster to load). I like TweetDeck because it lets me publish to multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts simultaneously, and I can set up all kinds of columns based on different subsets of data I want to see (Mentions, Friends, DMs, Searches, Facebook Feed, etc). The odds of TweetDeck getting the boot from Twitter right away are pretty small. But what about the odds of Twitter making it easy for TweetDeck’s developers to keep up with the new features and protocols that will keep it a relevant and useful way for me to interface with the platform going forward? Not so sure. HootSuite and Seesmic were called out as shining examples of apps Ryan likes, but TweetDeck wasn’t mentioned, even though it’s the largest third-party client of them all by many accounts.

TweetDeck was also suspended by Twitter just a few weeks ago as part of a spat with parent company UberMedia over heavy duty issues including privacy violations and trademark infringement. Does that mean I should start shopping for a new Twitter app? Maybe, if I read Ryan’s post the right way:

In addition, a number of client applications have repeatedly violated Twitter’s Terms of Service, including our user privacy policy.  This demonstrates the risks associated with outsourcing the Twitter user experience to third parties.  Twitter has to revoke literally hundreds of API tokens / apps a week as part of our trust and safety efforts, in order to protect the user experience on our platform.

D’oh!

Really, the big hoo-ha here is a question: What’s Twitter really up to? They can’t just be concerned with user privacy and consistency of experience, can they? I mean, only fanboys believe any tech companies are ever just plain telling the truth!

Twitter’s gone from a geek hangout/public joke to a phenomenon to a massively funded, hugely supported global communications platform in a very short time. There’s a lot at stake here, and a lot more power and money to be thrown around the greater ecosystem before all is said and done.

Building its own apps, better defining the terms by which third-party devs can tap into its APIs, creating a defacto style guide around phrases like,

some developers display “comment”, “like”, or other terms with tweets instead of  “follow, favorite, retweet, reply” – thus changing the core functions of a tweet,

Today’s mandates can be looked at one of two ways. Either Twitter is serious about its vision for how users – nay, consumers – might best interact with tweets and streams and they want to ensure the highest quality user experience … or … Twitter is serious about its vision for how to turn a massively popular free service into a massively profitable business and a growing ecosystem already comprised of some 750,000 third party apps is getting in the way of their rainbow ride to the pot of gold.

Time will tell. Hopefully Twitter can find a way to remain fiercely open, as loyalists often describe them, and financially successful, as investors will ultimately demand. Me, I’m curious to watch it all unfold from the virtual water cooler, chart public outrage levels against industry opinion, and hopefully continue to use TweetDeck as my daily driver (unless there’s a better tool out there, which inevitably there must be). Also, “Follow me! #Shameless” But at least one industry exec seems to have already decided what he thinks of Twitter’s “consistency and ecosystem opportunities.”


Noah Kravitz

Noah Kravitz mourned the day that Star Castle was replaced in the pizza parlour he frequented as a kid. The sadness ended when he saw an older kid...

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