April 1, 2023

Bits Blog: Twitter Changes Lead to Online Protests

Twitter’s new rules for third-party developers have spurred an online uproar.

After the company imposed stricter rules for its application programming interface, or A.P.I., on Thursday, engineers and developers picked up their virtual pitchforks and took to Twitter and blogs to decry what some described as a “bait and switch.

“Twitter looks a lot like the big star who forgot about all the little guys that helped it get to the top,” Rafe Colburn, an engineer at Etsy, wrote in a blog post.

The influential Instapaper creator Marco Arment was more direct in his criticism: “Twitter has proven to be unstable and unpredictable and any assurances they give about whether something will be permitted in the future have zero credibility. I sure as hell wouldn’t build a business on Twitter.”

Mr. Colburn, Mr. Arment and others took issue with the company’s new user cap, which limits Twitter’s third-party apps from accommodating more than 100,000 users, or growing beyond 200 percent of their current user base. Another point of contention was a rule that forbids third-party apps from weaving chronological tweets with content from other networks — a big headache for apps like Flipboard, which mix tweets with content from Facebook, blogs and publications and other sources.

Those conditions were greeted with a contempt typically reserved for investment bankers around bonus season: “Wall Street has a saying that applies to Twitter’s new A.P.I. policy: “Bears make money, bulls make money, but pigs get eaten,” tweeted Joel Spolsky, a co-founder of Fog Creek Software.

“This morning Twitter feels like your favourite band that has sold out to a major record label,” wrote Ewan Spence, a contributor to Forbes.com.

“Twitter, what kind of bird are you becoming? Are you still that cute little bird that everyone loved, or are you becoming a scary bird of prey?” wrote Nova Spivack, the chief executive of the start-up Bottlenose.com, who compelled people to sign his petition, #OccupyTwitter.

Some developers tried to quell outrage pointed toward Twitter. Tapbots, the maker of Tweetbot, a popular Twitter app, said in a company blog post that the response to the A.P.I. changes seemed overblown. “There’s been a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt generated by Twitter’s latest announcement,” the company wrote. “I wanted to let everyone know that the world isn’t ending.”

Others said such changes were par for the course when working with the data that large social networks provide. Bradford Cross, the co-founder of Prismatic, a social news aggregation Web site, said that while Twitter and other social networks could be hard to work with, “You’re getting the lowest distribution cost in history, lots of great data that you can create value from and you’re getting a more intimate connection to people.”

“It is going to be a Wild West for a while — social network wars, platform dodginess, media business turmoil and back-channel deals,” Mr. Cross added.

Many described Twitter’s changes as inevitable, particularly as the company struggles to find a viable business model. Twitter has experimented with various revenue streams like sponsored tweets and advertising. But its revenue — eMarketer estimates Twitter will make $260 million this year — pales in comparison to that of Facebook, which generated a substantial chunk of its $3.7 billion in revenue last year from its profit-sharing arrangement with third-party apps like Zynga.

But that explanation did not square with Twitter’s most vocal critics, like Mr. Spivack, who outlined alternative ways Twitter could generate revenue by keeping its A.P.I.’s open.

“Various apologists for Twitter attempt to justify it because ‘Twitter needs to be a multibillion-dollar business,’” Mr. Spivack wrote. “These kinds of statements just don’t hold water and are completely misguided.” He added, “The future market cap of the company will ultimately be orders of magnitude greater if they are stewards of the open nervous system of the planet than if they are the next Myspace trying to sell ads on their own pages and apps. It’s really that simple.”

Article source: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/17/twitter-changes-incite-online-protests/?partner=rss&emc=rss