Twitter Self Destructing, Destroying Third-Party Support

Does anyone remember Jaiku? Many Twitter users today don’t know this, but Jaiku was far superior to Twitter in numerous ways. It was better in every single way, and it deserved to be the product that everyone was talking about today. It still, to this day, shocks me as to how Jaiku allowed Twitter to take over.

But the reason that this happened was simple: the company failed to open itself up to third-party developers. Even after I urged the owners of Jaiku to open itself up to compete with Twitter, the company failed to do so. Twitter was announcing new APIs and incentives to developers while Jaiku continued to focus on improvements to the core product, and I knew what was going to happen.

The third-party developers, as expected, flocked to Twitter. These third parties began creating new and innovative applications that not only enhanced the functionality of Twitter but encouraged fun and creative uses of Twitter as well.

Jaiku — again, a superior product from a technical and usable standpoint (threaded comments, anyone?) — failed for that reason and that reason alone.

Essentially, Twitter owes all of its success to their third-party developers. Without them, we would not be talking about Twitter on Techi today. It’s quite the story, but it isn’t over.


Twitters Gives Third Parties The Birdie

With all that in mind, you would think that Twitter would value their third-party developers greatly and would never stab them in the back, right? Unfortunately, the guys at Twitter are starting to believe that they don’t need the them any longer.

All within the past few weeks, Twitter has basically ensured that no new third parties (smart ones, anyways) will attempt to develop mobile Twitter clients, create URL shorteners, explore points-of-interest location data, monetize with advertising, and who knows what else.

It is truly ridiculous! I can’t help but get the sense that Steve Jobs stepped in as CEO and is wanting to make all these radical decisions that cut people out. But why? I just don’t understand the long-term benefits.


A Permanent Fail Whale?

So I am going to make a bold claim: Twitter will end up just like MySpace, Jaiku, and every other social media tool that has failed if Twitter shuts out these third-party developers. There would be another Twitter-like product that will come along and will offer third-parties great incentives to develop for their products. Adventurous tech geeks like Robert Scoble, Leo Laporte, Jason Calacanis, and others would establish themselves there just as they did with Twitter. Then their followers would join. Then it will become a place where those on the cutting edge would want to be. And eventually, as time goes on, the mainstream would catch on while Twitter would be left to try to repair its standings with third-parties.

How can I make this claim? Because it is the case of history repeating itself over and over again.

There are no guarantees that Twitter will be on top forever. There are no guarantees that Facebook will rule the world. It is, however, entirely possible that anyone with a vision and determination can come in and can take over social media. The company that gets the support of developers will be the ones that have the best chance to do it.

That said, I can’t actually believe that Twitter would go as far as to shut out their loyal third-party developers to this extent. I don’t believe that Twitter wouldn’t be that stupid to try to become the Apple of social media. It isn’t worth it. However, all these recent developments paint a grim future for third-party developers. And there have been dumber things done in the tech industry (plus, it makes for good news).

But Twitter, at the end of the day, should remember one thing: it was third-party support that made the company what it is today. Messing around with that could have severe repercussions.

[Image Credit: andreiu]

Written by James Mowery

James Mowery is a passionate technology journalist and entrepreneur who has written for various top-tier publications like Mashable and CMSWire. Follow him on Twitter: @JMowery.

Related posts
  • im having a hard time seeing how the kind of developers twitter wants will be scared of by this. the ones who does not make apps they can build themselves like a client, a url shortener or whatever, but rather games or services that extend beyond the core platform/product, or integrate with others, doesnt care if twitter goes after the obvious holes. maybe it would’ve sucked for office suite developers if microsoft released their own office suite for windows now and not a long time ago but that would not have stopped others from develop other stuff for the os.

    new developers will be forced to build new and more creative things on top of twitter – and we should be happy it is so.

    • “of” = off

    • Jonas,

      Why should Twitter developers be forced to do anything?

      However, it is irrelevant what we thing. It is the developers who have to deal with this, and if Twitter ticks off enough of them, I am fairly confident that it will have repercussions. It could very well open the door for competition, just as Jaiku did.

      You can’d dismiss the power of third-party developers, especially with looking at Twitter and Facebook’s growth. I’m sure you know that.

      It just doesn’t seem too smart to bite off the heads of those who helped the platform to succeed.