Today, at Defrag conference, Twitter announced a new deal with the Real-Time stream proxy Gnip, where for $360,000 per year they will search 50% of all content posted to Twitter. This move follows the move, as I mentioned earlier, of Twitter moving further and further away from an open platform, and more towards one they fully control, which, as I’m sure is their opinion, will hopefully bring them more revenue in the future. The problem with this move is that rather than open up the data of users on Twitter by embracing a real-time standard such as PubsubHubbub or RSS Cloud where middleware Proxies can filter the traffic coming through which anyone can set up, they’ve entirely blocked the potential for such by ensuring their revenue source instead comes from what should be open data.
This move is troubling. This move means Twitter’s revenue is entirely reliant on them being a closed ecosystem. The more they block data from the open web, the more they profit. This sets a very bad precedence that could very well seep into other systems of theirs in the future. In fact I bet it will.
Twitter has every right to protect their main firehose – they have pretty much done so already. The Gnip deal seals that direction even further though, and builds Twitter’s entire business model around content that should be free in the first place. To be “the pulse of the planet” you cannot be a toll road.
Twitter has made similar moves recently, with their move towards their own user interface that only “preferred partners” can interface with (meaning you have to pay to provide an interface to users on Twitter.com that might have an interest in your product), and also removing the obvious RSS feed links to users that are logged into Twitter that made it easier for users to retrieve and parse content of those they want to follow on the service. This move also comes after Twitter reduced rate limits and removed capabilities for applications to do popular features on the site.
If one thing is obvious, it’s that Twitter wants more control over its ecosystem. Unfortunately, control means a more closed environment. Unfortunately, the deal with Gnip seals that closed environment in stone for some time to come. I think we can pretty much count on Twitter being a closed, walled garden in the years to come.
I hope they prove me wrong.
UPDATE: Twitter did prove me wrong, sorta – read how here.