Twitter – You’re making it hard to love you


Recent changes to the way Twitter works with third parties are damaging the brand’s relationship with its users.

An admission:  I’ve long loved Twitter.  Of the various social spaces I’ve played in over the years it’s the one I’ve used in the most contexts, that I’ve personally found most rewarding to engage through, and that I’ve most come to rely on for news and updates from friends and strangers alike.

I like its economy, its immediacy, and its unobtrusiveness.

But just recently, its owners have been working to take a little of the shine off the way it works as a business.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not some sad naïve type sitting at my computer wailing about how everything’s getting so commercial!  Of course Twitter is a business, and its systems and user base are extremely valuable assets which need to be protected and capitalized upon.

But as with all things, there’s a way to work, and most especially a way to present your actions, that is less likely to get people’s backs up, and it feels that the Twitter hierarchy is working from the wrong direction on that front.

The change of their ‘suggestions’ on how third party apps should display retweets, link usernames and profiles, and deliver various aspects of the Twitter experience into ‘requirements’ as part of their stated aim to unify the platform is potentially a positive one in terms of consistent user experience.  Sadly the change is wrapped up in a number of other rule updates which seem more draconian, and so all the recipient takes away from the whole adjustment is that Twitter are throwing their weight around.

Likewise, and most controversially, the introduction of a hard cap to the number of users that any third-party Twitter app is able to have is effectively Twitter dictating how big the app owners’ businesses can ever grow, and likely removing any incentive to innovate further in those apps, which will damage their users’ enjoyment of the tools they’ve had the temerity to choose over Twitter’s own.

Twitter is one of those brands that a lot of people developed a lot of affection for in a short period.  Part of its attraction, to me and others I know, was always the openness of its model, whether that meant its API or the warm adoption of its users’ suggestions, usages and habits into the ‘official’ experience.

It’s sad to see that openness going away, and the opportunities for other sources to create innovation in the platform being diminished.  Twitter’s message is clearly that its future lies in its own apps and their development.  It’s their right and their decision, but at least one of its effects is to make me feel slightly less warm and fuzzy about the brand than I used to.