By now, you’ve probably heard about Twitter’s planned changes to their API policy. In order to deliver a more consistent experience (to advertisers, not you), the little start up that could is going to revoke API access from a whole host of third party apps and clients. HootSuite? Going. Echofon? Dying on the vine. Tweetbot (sweet, sweet Tweetbot)? Prognosis negative. You won’t be able to share via Instapaper’s social media features, or even open an image in a separate app if it’s attached to a tweet. Those of us who’ve become attached to Twitter might do best to consider detaching as soon as possible.
There aren’t going to be many legitimate options for heavy Twitter users, at least not immediately. You can use the app Twitter itself provides, but it’s limited in function and absolutely awful to look at. It feels like a Twitter app cooked up by a precocious teenager with serious coding skills, not the face of a dominant social media franchise. So that’s out. Plus there may be bigger implications than we realize in these changes. Which means it might be time to “MySpace” Twitter, so to speak.
Nothing lasts forever, and in the tech world, forever is about seven years. The carcasses of Friendster, MySpace, Google Buzz (and soon Google+), and hundreds of others (anyone remember pets.com?) litter the social media landscape, and while each died for different reasons, the enduring reality is that each of them fell into steep decline or outright disrepair within seven years. Friendster only had two years on top. MySpace had three years and change. Despite its unchallenged hegemony over social networking today, even the mighty Facebook has only been dominant for three years. Twitter is now six years old and has been the king of microblogging since day one. How do you stay on top? Probably not by alienating your most fervent advocates and developers with punitive API revocations.
I signed up for app.net this morning, a Twitter competitor catering to a more tech-savvy crowd. It costs money, but not enough to be prohibitive (50 bucks is a few beers out in Brooklyn these days). You can find me @pf. It might be a Google+-esque ghost town, or become a MySpace-ish zombie lair in a few months, I don’t know. But I do know that Twitter’s new policies sound an awful lot like a death knell for a cutting edge social media network that changed how many of us get our news and communicate with the world at large. Let’s hope I’m wrong.
EDIT: Tapbots, the company behind Tweetbot, has responded, and they seem confident that their app will continue to exist. Wired, TechCrunch, and most other observers disagree.