Have you been paying attention to what’s happening with Twitter and developers recently?
Twitter’s relationship with developers is turning into a social media shit show, and we’ve all got a front row seat.
This storm has been brewing for a while now. It started in 2010, when Twitter acquired Tweetie to be its first official Twitter app. Things got worse from there when Twitter told developers to stop making Twitter clients. This past week, Twitter reiterated that position, laying out exactly which type of software it thinks developers should make using Twitter’s API.
And that blog post pissed off a lot of developers.
Developers have a lot to be angry about. They were the ones who made the first apps for Twitter. They were the ones who made up the @ reply, hashtags, and retweets. They developed software to put Twitter on your desktop and smartphone. Hell, they even came up with the idea to use a blue bird as the Twitter logo.
In short, a lot of what we know about Twitter today is because independent developers took the time to create it based on the first version on Twitter’s API. And now, Twitter is blowing it up in their face.
Arguably, most of this is occurring because Twitter is transforming from a venture capitalist-funded social network into a media corporation supported by advertising revenues. Twitter is slowly rolling out features such as “Twitter cards” to deeply integrate rich media into the code of tweets themselves. This integration creates a more dynamic experience while also giving advertisers better ways to reach users than with a 140 character messages.
Unfortunately, what’s good for the business isn’t necessarily good for the developers. Developers are migrating to App.net, a subscription based carbon copy of Twitter. That means all the smart, passionate people who care about doing cool thing with Twitter are moving away. While I am doubtful about the mass adoption of a somewhat elitist subscription based social network, the migration is an indicator of a larger trend.
We’re in the middle of the biggest shake up since the current crop of social networks began. Just like how social media professionals can’t talk about rainbows and puppies and engagement as business goals, the social networks themselves must prove their ability to make money.
And they’re floundering miserably at creating the massive revenues investors were hoping for.
In response, the once pristine newsfeeds are becoming cluttered with ads. More and more of our friends profiles are becoming electronic billboards with more stuff to click.
Is this the future of social media, where the social network becomes the media corporation, focused on creating a consistent experience to deliver ad units? I’m not sure. But, I do think we’re going to be seeing this shake out over the next few years, finding out what people are willing to pay for access to their social network.
Somewhere out there, some nerd, scorned by the mainstream social networks, is looking at these models and working on a better way to make these social network things both efficient and profitable.
That’s what I’m excited to see and be a part of.