Twitter vs developers
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I was emailing with a friend of mine yesterday who is a 30 year veteran of silicon valley. He'd written a post that was quite positive about the iPad. I sent him my post which wasn't so positive.
On Wednesday at Twitter’s Chirp conference, CEO Evan Williams released another bomb during the wrap-up Q&A session: Twitter is working on creating it’s own link shortener for Twitter.com. Once again, in the space of a week, Twitter declared it was moving into an area previously occupied by another company in the Twitter eco-system, in this case bit.ly, which grew on the back of Twitter when it became the default link shortener on the service in May, 2009. I was able to speak with bit.ly and betaworks CEO John Borthwick yesterday about Twitter’s unwinding of their relationship. The impact on bit.ly may be negligible, at least in the short run. It turns out that Twitter stopped using bit.ly as it’s default shortener on Twitter.com back in early December, except for one specific use-case.
Way back in February the writing was on the wall : Twitter would compete directly with third party developers who were creating Twitter apps. Twitter investor Fred Wilson reiterated that threat just a few days ago when he said most of the apps that third party developers had created were merely “filling holes,” not truly creating “something entirely new on top of Twitter.” That sure sounds ominous. And then, BOOM. Twitter released its own Blackberry app and acquired Tweetie , which has a popular iPhone and desktop app. The threats are over, Twitter fired missiles at its developers.
If ever there was a case of the triumph of not paying attention then the storm allegedly brewing between Twitter and its developer ecosystem will make a future masterclass in how not to understand software ecosystems.
The Friday night surprise of Twitter having acquired Tweetie from Atebits, and adding its creator, Loren Brichter, to the company's swelling mobile team, on the back of Twitter's also announcing their first mobile client for BlackBerry , not only was big news on its own, but it has set off waves in the world of Twitter application developers and users, some of whom are seeing the move as something akin to a betrayal or an anti-competitive move, which puts the owners of the platform in conflict with those expanding it. While I am sympathetic to some of their positions, having seen competitive clients find the world in which they live a lot more difficult, the step is a brilliant one, which is an important stepping stone in terms of moving Twitter forward as a business. For years, as users and coders, we begged for Twitter to graduate from the lean startup mode, with questionable quality and uptime, to one focused on delivering an exceptional product.
This is going to make two blog posts in a row that are “off the cuff” for me.
Fred Wilson, a well-known venture capitalist whose firm has invested in Twitter, published a blog post earlier this week that raised eyebrows amongst third party developers who develop on the Twitter platform. The reason? It sent an ominous message to many of them: Twitter might put you out of business soon.
Update: Full video is here . We had Loic Le Meur of Seesmic , and Nick Halsted of Tweetmeme at TechCrunch today to talk about the ongoing Twitter developer ecosystem story. It was a fairly contentious discussion as we tried to wade through all the b.s. and get to the meat of the story. We’ll post the full video tomorrow, but here’s a teaser where I debate Loic on whether or not he saw the direct competition coming.
made it easy for programmers outside the company to build 70,000 applications that made the microblogging service more usable. Without them, people would not be able to post a photo, shorten a URL, monitor several Twitter accounts at once, easily use the service from a cellphone or search for people to follow. Because of that, Twitter grew so fast that no me-too company could mount a serious challenge.
Take a pile of carbon and apply enough heat and pressure and you’ll get diamonds. Of course you might just not get it right and will end up with a pile of ash. If you talk with Loic Le Meur , CEO of Seesmic, he tells a story of feeling squeezed, just like a batch of carbon.
Twitter itself is filling a hole (start here if you don’t know what this is all about), the status update craze hole it mostly created.
You guys are WRONG Twitter will keep getting huge and growing WITH its developers. It’s been a really stressful few days for the Twitter developers from the announcements of Friday to this decisive day of Chirp.
Yesterday we showed a teaser of our conversation with Loic Le Meur of Seesmic , and Nick Halstead of Tweetmeme . Here’s the full video, in two parts. This is a debate around the recent decision by Twitter to compete directly with third party developers who are making Twitter applications that Twitter has deemed to be mere “hole fillers.”
Twitter is holding its first developer conference, Chirp, today in San Francisco . Co-founder Biz Stone opened with now familiar stories of how Twitter has been used for the betterment of humanity. He also (to his own chagrin, since he’s not a numbers guy) dropped a few stats about the service: 105,779,710 registered Twitter users; 300,000 signups per day; 180 million uniques/month. And 75 percent of traffic comes from outside twitter.com. Next up, Twitter CEO Evan Williams addressed the company’s relationship with developers: “Twitter has always been about developers,” Williams said.
Twitter caused much consternation among developers last week when it started filling holes in its product line, primarily by moving into mobile apps. Specifically, it launched its own Blackberry app and acquired the startup behind Tweetie , one of the most popular Twitter apps on the iPhone. During his presentation today at Chirp , CEO Evan Williams tried to explain why Twitter feels the need to compete with app developers in this area. “We need to address these markets in abetter way,” he told the assembled developers. Some might take that to mean that their mobile apps suck and Twitter is going to come in to fix things. But Ev’s point is more that mobile is too important for Twitter not to have its own official apps, especially for newbie users confused by too many choices in the various mobile app stores.