Lessons Learned from Twitter’s New Attitude to Third-Party Apps

March 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

3.16.11  This past Friday (March 11, 2011), Twitter’s platform chief, Ryan Sarver, delivered a sharp message to third-party application developers. In essence, if your business is to be Twitter (i.e. Tweetdeck) you might want to consider a new line of business. Read more about the message from Mashable’s coverage here: Twitter to Devs

The heart of the message is a bit more nuanced, but communicates the fact that Twitter wants to be the main client for Twitter users. Third-party clients such as TweetDeck and Echofon certainly offer a more advanced interface, but one that competes directly with Twitter. This is something that Twitter does not want to further encourage.

The primary reason for this move is that Twitter wants a higher degree of control over the user experience. In much the same way that Apple has locked down iPad development for the same reason – bad user experiences will pull the value of the brand down. While this is not the only reason it is the most amiable.

So, where do we go from here. First of all, I think this is another reason why companies have to be careful building their business models around other’s platform. The risks are huge…LaLa acquired by Apple (now gone) as one example and Imeem acquired by MySpace (now gone) as another. In both cases, companies had built services around these platforms (primarily their APIs) and with rather little notice their technology platform was yanked from them. I have said this is the risk of any business relying on Facebook as their primary platform and would have predicted something like this would happen there first if asked to make a guess, not with Twitter.

Ultimately, while I think this is somewhat disappointing news at first glance, I think there is an incredible lesson here: don’t build a company around a 3-year old start-up as your primary business model. It just does not make sense and this is the exact reason why. You can’t control what they are going to do and when they change their business models they may not consult you.

At this point, it will be very interesting to watch the path that Twitter takes and how some of the primary third-party apps that create the Twitter ecosystem navigate the waters here.


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