Robert Brodrecht

Twitter and the End of Web 2.0

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Introduction

Twitters recent API updates are accepted by most as hostile toward third-party client developers, and thereby hostile toward the users of those clients, the ones who likely helped create and popularize at-replies and hash tags.

John Siracusa did an interpretation of the new API guidelines on Hypercritical, lambasting them for their “California knife in the back” phrasing, and Marco Arment posted his take on the the changes. Ben Brooks is angry enough to break his recently launched pay wall. Most geeks are really concerned with these changes because they affect us the most. We’re the 29.2% using third-party Twitter clients, and, while restrictions to those clients will stifle innovation, the users of third-party clients are the lion’s share of those that will suffer from Twitter’s increasingly strict requirements.

Tapbots, maker of the wonderful Tweetbot clients, is on record saying, “Don’t panic.” According to them, it will be several years before their iOS client hits its cap and they have to “talk with Twitter” (per the new guidelines) to continue to sell Tweetbot. They are still moving forward with the Tweetbot Mac client. Their post, more than anything, has calmed my worries about Twitter taking away the experience I like best. Update: It turns out that (the public alpha of Tweetbot for Mac is no longer public due to the token limits)[http://tapbots.com/blog/news/where-did-the-tweetbot-for-mac-alpha-go].

These API guideline changes seem to signal the end of Web 2.0. The reason RSS and APIs were so en vogue when Twitter launched (and why Twitter even has an API) is because Web 2.0 was advocating data portability, mashups, and consume-how-you-like. Twitter was a darling of the Web 2.0 era, on par with the likes of Flickr. These new API guidelines are a staunch reversal of many tenants of Web 2.0. Twitter is, like Facebook has already managed, pushing hard to become a walled garden. That’s what’s really upsetting. I always interpreted the existence of an API to be a social contract of sorts. They created a tool to enable third-party clients to exist, and now they are trying to turn the tool into a weapon against third-party clients and the users of those clients.

I might be too pessimistic, though. Maybe Twitter is simply a failed exercise in the penultimate Web 2.0 platform. Maybe it’s just that the key visionaries have all moved on to other projects. What I see, at the very least, is that a platform that helped advance revolutions like the Arab Spring is now squandering a lot of good will in an attempt to, presumably, figure out a way to monazite a user base. This is why it’s a good idea to consider a business model before creating a utopian experiment. Web 3.0 is going to be the pay-for-services era if App.Net figures out how to do it first.

All I know is that, if Twitter ever decides to take away Tweetbot (or whatever client I like to use), they’ll lose me as a participant.