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Twitter developers dismayed by promise of stricter API rules

Some accuse the microblogging service of turning its back on the developers who contributed to the company's success.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
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Steven Musil
3 min read

Twitter's announcement that it will tighten the rules governing its APIs sent a shock wave through the developer community, leaving many feeling jilted by the microblogging service and worried about the direction the company is heading.

Ending a policy that had been in effect for the past two-and-a-half-years, Twitter announced Friday it planned to institute stricter rules for its application programming interface to ensure that "the core Twitter consumption experience" includes "a consistent set of products and tools."

In a company blog post announcing the forthcoming policy, consumer product manager Michael Sippey discussed broadening its "expanded tweets " program, which allows users to preview stories, images, and videos linked to within tweets.

"[W]e've already begun to more thoroughly enforce our Developer Rules of the Road with partners, for example with branding, and in the coming weeks, we will be introducing stricter guidelines around how the Twitter API is used," Sippey wrote.

Twitter simultaneously canceled a cross-posting partnership with LinkedIn. In essence, LinkedIn users will still be able to post updates to Twitter from the business network, but not the other way around.

That string of events shocked many in the developer community. One developer on Hacker News said Twitter has a valuable set of Internet resources, but that the company "has never been particularly great at thinking of innovative uses for it or developing great clients."

"There are a lot of really interesting and different ways to use those, regrettably they are trying to kill most of them and inflict a homogonized, boring, monoculture on their user base they can monotize, which will make the experience progressively worse," the poster said.

In a tweet, software pioneer Dave Winer suggested that corporate greed was responsible in the apparent change in direction:

In another tweet, Mike Loukides, the VP Content Strategy at O'Reilly Media, accused Twitter of turning its back on the developers who helped build up the service:

The promise of new policies has also spawned a coordinated tweet campaign to share third-party developers' concerns with Twitter executives. Nova Spivack, the CEO of real-time personalization startup Bottlenose, offers some suggestions in a blog post on how to improve Twitter's API. It is Spivack's hope that his readers will tweet the article to Twitter executives to influence policy thinking.

"I want Twitter to achieve its potential, and to live up to its promises to be an open ecosystem. And I'm concerned by the 'ominous' signs that they may be heading down a path that betrays the trust and goodwill given to them by millions of users and developers," Spivack wrote.

"If Twitter starts shutting down their APIs or being overly restrictive they will ultimately be harming their own users and developers, and that just is not a good way to build a business. They will be selling out their own future for a short-term gain. That is a good way to destroy one's own empire. I am pretty sure the leadership team at Twitter realizes this."

CNET has contacted Twitter for comment and will update this report when we learn more.