Developers are up in arms over new changes to Twitter’s policies. Today Ryan Sarver, Twitter’s Director of Platform, stated in an email to developers that “developers ask us if they should build client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience. The answer is no.” I applaud the effort however, as Twitter is a) becoming more open and honest about their policies, and b) I’ve been recommending this move since 2009.
In June of 2009 (and in many Tweets the years before), I suggested that “Twitter has never had control over how Tweets get to users.” I suggested that by owning the client they own advertising, and that was the best way they could monetize. By making this move today they’re putting their stake in the sand (albeit without buying Tweetdeck, but buying Tweetie instead), and taking control of some really great ways to monetize Twitter.
Twitter should now take this as an opportunity to build a platform out of the client. Now, with their new user interface on Twitter.com, and control of the mobile experience, they should be building ways for developers to tie into the user experience and enhance what users are getting out of Twitter. Seesmic Desktop is taking this approach right now, allowing developers to integrate into their client experience, creating many very interesting tie ins to the Seesmic platform. While this move is probably bad for Seesmic (unless Twitter buys Seesmic), it is the direction Twitter should go.
If you remember, Facebook did this early on – when they launched their platform they built ways for developers to, rather than need to build clients to enhance the experience. Facebook allows “Canvas Pages” for developers to build on top of Facebook.com, and “integration points” for developers to build access to every part of the Facebook experience. (I cover these in my new book)
Owning the client opens up a whole wealth of opportunities for Twitter – I just wish they had done it sooner. Let’s hope they continue being honest about their roadmap and developers aren’t strung along in the future like they have the last several years. I met with Ryan Sarver yesterday – I admit I had a new respect for Twitter after talking to him. Twitter is in a good stance now for the future, and I look forward to seeing where they go with this.