Well Played Twitter!

It’s been on the cards for a while. Tweetie has been acquired (and is becoming the official Twitter app). A new URL shortener is being launched. Android apps are being made official. Ads have been launched. Twitter has grown up. They are making the transition from a platform to a product.

Platform:  describes some sort of hardware architecture or software framework (including application frameworks), that allows software to run. Product: commodities offered for sale

The warning signs have been there for a while. Developers were encouraged to stop filling the holes in Twitters products and instead focus on innovation. It’s a tough situation and a real Catch-22 for Twitter. I feel for the developers but Twitter is a business and at some point there needsto be a *focus on profit.

There is no doubt developers helped grow Twitter. Most of us use applications (i.e. Seesmic) and I’d be willing to bet some users joined due to developers promoting their tools. A developer ecosystem was not only encouraged but  heavily promoted so developers felt safe and continued on. Some innovations were marginal and deserve to be crushed, some were fantastic but we all draw the line at different points. What we cannot question is that 3rd party developer’s added value and pushed the Twitter forward.

As a business this ecosystem begins to hurt Twitter. They were a mildly profitable platform but not a wildly profitable product like their contemporaries (read: Twitter is a product, not a platform). Nobody will visit Twitter.com (how often do you visit  to send / read a tweet?). The same ecosystem that pushed the company forward is now taking away the impressions and hit counts that are important to advertisers. As a platform owner Twitter have every right to take control back and this is exactly what they are doing.

It has been made clear that the ecosystem will still to be encouraged. Skeptics are quick to point out that Twitter might monitor how  3rd party features work before rolling it into the core system. My biggest issue is not Twitter taking back their platform but having encouraged the developers and never making it clear that ‘eventually, we want control’. The other half of me understands the need to grow a revenue model and for that they need their visitors back.

It is difficult to buy their advice to developers to not fill holes anymore. After all, what is a hole? I’m fairly sure a few years ago shortened links & desktop tweeting were not holes in the Twitter product but innovations. Now developers are encouraged to focus on improving the stream (i.e. propagating streams further across the web, a huge benefit to Twitter).