Twitter yesterday wrote a rather interesting blog post. Interesting, because my time was 2AM when the blog post went live. More interestingly for normal people, was that the post was written by a non-executive level member of the Twitter team, and it outlined some serious ramifications for third party developers. You know, the very developers who helped grow and adapt the service when Twitter wouldn’t (and still continue to halt – adding stock exchange lookups is not quite as effective as @replies).
The community around it went a bit mental, as did I. Twitter outlined a “four quadrant” description of who uses Twitter from an API standpoint, and what needs to be done. The upper right quadrant is the bold boys corner, and here sits apps like TweetBot. These apps will be rate limited to discourage development of them, so that users will favour the absolutely disgraceful first party offering instead.
Sure, most people use the first party offerings. That’s natural. But the traffic generated from third party offerings would tend to suggest that these are the core users. People who paid a few euro/dollars for TweetBot or similar are definitely using Twitter to a more extreme extend than simply following Britney and being part of #teamfollowback.
Put more simply, everything I like about Twitter & the way I use it is up in that top right quadrant. And Twitter, as a result, doesn’t like me… regardless of how much I use it. If I switched to their awful first party apps (a nasty iOS app that’s built exclusively to highlight celebrities and Beliebers and an OS X app that is more antiquated than is worth thinking about).
An astute observation would be that Twitter needs to monetise. Of course they do. And of course, moves like this have been long coming down the pipe (as Twitter will remind us over and over again), but it stinks of a company filled with execs who have no idea how to monetise their service. They need ads, because they’re not creative enough to think of anything better. To control ad revenue, they need to have everyone only use their offering for getting into the system – mobile or otherwise.
A solution would be to look at app.net, where users are very willing to buy themselves into the club. I wouldn’t charge users, as the Britney fans would go nuts. But charging $100/year for API access for developers would be a great way to generate revenue, but encourage only serious developers (like TapBots) into the fold. I would also suggest that the users of ‘bad apps’ are the shoutiest/loudest community on Twitter; in a good way. These people are more likely to click ads (just look at networks like The Deck) and help grow the community organically (you know, like they have for years now). Without that community there’s no @reply, hashtags or proper etiquette.
Keep in mind that Twitter’s own iOS app (and subsequent Android port) was a third party app that they bought.
In the end, though, this really is a time for app.net to shine.