The Great Twitter Crackdown - and Why You Should Care
The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.
You may have heard about recent changes at Twitter, in which the company announced changes to its platform, creating a widespread public discussion, ranging from those who believed that Twitter was killing off its partners to those who felt that the changes were nothing more than a reasonable clarification that was just poorly worded. Related to this, Twitter has recently shut off relationships with LinkedIn (to syndicate Tweets) and with Instagram and Tumblr, which allowed those services to let users find their Twitter friends, but in the context of those other services.
Outside of the development community, the response has been ho-hum - in part, it appears, because most people don't really understand what all this API stuff is about. So here's a quick look at why content creators, Web publishers and advertisers shouldn't worry about this ... and a few reasons why they should.
First, three reasons why you shouldn't care:
1. For now and for your average Twitter user, this doesn't change anything. The tweets will flow. This all has to do with the plumbing aspects of Twitter, some of which will certainly impact users, but for the most part, most Twitter users simply won't notice.
2. In some areas, these new rules might actually make Twitter more useful, by standardizing some access issues. When there were no rules, different apps and services acted in different ways - and that created a fair amount of confusion. By making the rules more strict, Twitter can better make sure that the interfaces are useful and elegant.
3. In theory, some of the rule changes may help Twitter make more money - and fans of Twitter should want the company to survive.
Of course, there are also three reasons why we should all be worried:
1. This is turning the company's back on the early adopters who helped build the company. Part of the reason Twitter has been so successful is that it embraced and co-opted ideas from their users, publishers and developers, and that helped make a better product for everyone. Pissing off those people may not bode well for the future, and there's a chance that the company won't be able to maintain itself well.
2. The sudden and abrupt change will leave developers and publishers both uncertain and potentially concerned about the future, even if they weren't directly affected (yet). Seeing well known sites like Tumblr, Instagram and LinkedIn cut off is spooking companies who have built many of the tools that made Twitter useful in the first place.
3. This is a dry run at the lengths to which Twitter will go to take back control over certain aspects of its system for the sake of increasing revenue. That relentless pursuit of revenue could actually have a negative impact on the site in the form of annoying users (and publishers) or doing things they don't like, causing Twitter to lose value.
It comes down to this: for the average content creator and user, there's not too much to worry about, yet. But if you look at the two lists above, the first one is about now, and the second one is looking towards the future. And, out there in the future, these moves could come back to haunt Twitter - and with it, many of those who rely on Twitter every day.
Mike Masnick is the editor of Techdirt and a SAY Media partner.