In a recent article by Houston Chronicle writer Dwight Silverman, Twitter is cast in multiple lights. Silverman claims that he has long been a fan of Twitter and the open communication it allows, specifically allowing for third-party businesses to be a part of the platform. However, “Twitter-the-company,” says Silverman, is beginning to conflict with “Twitter-the-open-platform.”
Twitter began as a micro-blogging service that provided a space for uses to give instant updates and messages about any type of content to the rest of the world in real time. People flocked to the site in droves, looking for a new way to express themselves via social media, promote a business, or hear what others have to say. Twitter is now used as a huge vehicle for learning about what is happening across the globe. However, the company is now trying to control some of this open-ended communication from a business perspective and may, according to Silverman, be losing a large part of what it initially was supposed to be about: an open platform.
The company just announced an update to its API, or Application Programming Interface, that constrains how developers can use the data within the Twitter platform. There are many outside businesses that use this information to offer applications to Twitter users that help individualize their Twitter feed, ultimately keeping promoted content out, and generally maintaining a feed that more closely resembles what a user wishes to see.
Now, though, Twitter is changing its policies and only allowing third-party applications to operate on two service levels: 100,000 and 200,000 users. If the application exceeds those amounts, they will be required to do business with Twitter and play by their rules.
According to Silverman, these changes will have a direct effect on his Twitter experience:
I rely heavily on third party Twitter clients to filter out what I consider to be junk – automated Tweets from other networks and services that clutter up an otherwise useful stream. I’m not interested in seeing Foursquare check-ins, how far someone has jogged via Runkeeper, or a roundup of weekly tweets from Paper.li. In fact, I use a Twitter client called Echofon to filter out nearly four dozen robotweeting sources, and if I suddenly had to see those all the time, I’d probably consider abandoning my regular use of it.”
So, what will be the result of these changes? Although Twitter is well within their rights to operate their business as they see fit and protect their profits, have they taken this too far? Will Twitter ultimately end up becoming only a shell of what it once was? Will users have to look elsewhere in the future for a free flow of information that they can control as they see fit?