Tweeters to Twitter on API edict: Twits!

Latest move by Twitter to shore up its position at the expense of developers not winning many fans.

Charles Cooper Former Executive Editor / News
Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.
Charles Cooper
2 min read

Ultimately, it's their bat and ball and the good folks at Twitter are going to do what they see as being in Twitter's self interest. But that wasn't cutting it with many developers who have written Twitter client applications. After hearing about Thursday's announcement of stricter API guidelines that effectively gives Twitter more control over how many users an app can have, they went up on the transom to register their disapproval.

And for good reason: Twitter, which a year and a half ago put developers on notice not to compete with "the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience," is getting ready to breath up all the oxygen in the room. (It did developers the "favor" of warning where not to tread in the form of a four quadrant matrix that John Gruber described as insipid.

Of course, this is all inside baseball stuff and the changes won't be apparent to the 99.999 percent of the folks who tweet. For many developers, though, the company's impossibly jargon-heavy declaration elicited a predictably sour reaction. The acid summation offered by Marco Arment, who developed Instapaper, summed up the feelings of many: "I sure as hell wouldn't build a business on Twitter, and I don't think I'll even build any nontrivial features on it anymore," he wrote on his blog. "And if I were in the Twitter-client business, I'd start working on another product."

It's easy enough to dismiss the critics as people who just want to complain but that misses the point of what remains an evolving story. Does Twitter management understand how this all is playing out? I'm not so sure. In June, Twitter no longer allowed people to publish tweets to their LinkedIn profiles. At the time, Twitter said it wanted to provide "the core Twitter consumption experience through a consistent set of products and tools." That went over like a lead balloon. Now this (See the sampling of Tweets on today's news below.)

Remember when the microblogging service was such the darling of the Arab Spring and free speechers around the world? Now it's looking more and more like just yet another big company making a power play.