Turning Twitter into an application server

Engine Yard's contest featuring Twitter as app server is interesting from marketing and technology angles. Maybe there is a way for Twitter to make money after all.

Dave Rosenberg Co-founder, MuleSource
Dave Rosenberg has more than 15 years of technology and marketing experience that spans from Bell Labs to startup IPOs to open-source and cloud software companies. He is CEO and founder of Nodeable, co-founder of MuleSoft, and managing director for Hardy Way. He is an adviser to DataStax, IT Database, and Puppet Labs.
Dave Rosenberg
2 min read

As much as Twitter is a powerful communication and social application, it's a relatively simple Web app. As part of a new contest sponsored by Engine Yard, Ruby on Rails developers are going to turn Twitter into their own application server.

The contest asks developers to program the "Worst App Server Technology Ever" (Waste) using Twitter as the message bus. While much of the contest is being done tongue-in-cheek, it's actually an interesting use case to see if a service like Twitter can take the place of a more traditional message bus like IBM MQ series or AMQP (Advanced Message Queuing Protocol).

Contest participants register up to five Twitter handles and code the function that each would perform in a program. When the contest challenge is issued on November 12, participants will have to use at least 10 of the pre-designated Twitter handles (other than their own) as endpoints to perform functions on data sets located at unique URLs. All messages will work through a series of automated public Twitter replies.

This is somewhere between an application server, a social game, the "telephone game" and service-oriented architecture (SOA) where Twitter plays the role of the enterprise service bus and the Twitter API is the broker between data sources. SOA relies on services exposing their functionality other applications and services can read to understand how to utilize those services. In this case, Twitter can be used as an application server in the cloud. (Take that buzzword bingo players.)

The funny thing is that as absurd and comical as this sounded when the Engine Yard guys told me about it, I've started to think about this as a way to possibly achieve a real technological breakthrough. And while I don't think that Twitter will be the "cloud bus," I do think that there is a lot to be learned from applying this type of constraint to a data flow process.

Engine Yard VP of marketing Michael Mullany told me that the contest shows how developers can leverage a relatively straightforward platform in innovative ways. But it's also another example of an interesting marketing effort to use Twitter as the vehicle for one's own benefit. Also, in true open source fashion, developers wind up building new applications based on code written by their peers.

Let's hope Twitter can handle the attention and developers are not greeted by the ever-lurking fail whale. You can check out the contest and learn more details at Engineyard.com