I started playing with twitter in January 2007, well before that year's SXSW breakout. I didn't start playing around with the twitter API until recently, joining the Twitter Development Talk Google Group, writing first my own command line update client (a very cunning combination of bash and curl which until this week totally failed to URL encode parameters. Doh.) and more recently a followers history tool (which isn't public, and won't be until I either get over accepting people's twitter credentials or some sort of third party authentication scheme is rolled out). My other posts about twitter are collected here: Topics/Web Services/Twitter.
I'll just preface the rest of this with:
I have no inside insight, and have no idea what is wrong with
twitter other than the general
it's not scaling particularly well, is it?.
So, this is all just supposition.
I just wanted to make that clear.
The biggest problem with twitter? It's free.
I know, you're thinking
WTF is that ∗ character there for? And there is a cost you bozo, there's a rate limit!.
I concede your point, there is a rate limit, which applies on a per–user basis.
But that's not a cost.
That's not a price.
The per–user limit doesn’t cause a user to sit back and think:
Ooh, do I really want to tweet "Taking the dogs for a walk to the Telectrascope on Fulton Ferry."
I'm old school. I think it's the right, the duty of anyone running a web site to protect that site from abusive behavior, whatever that may be. I regularly rant on our nextNY list that people can and should take proactive measures to protect their sites (blocking users, bots, what–not). I don't think that we, as site managers (webmasters, whatever you want to call us these days) have to suck up all of the traffic thrown at a site just because as a general principle we're open to user generated content, APIs into our services, means of extending whatever it is we're providing (and, in theory, profiting from in some way).
So, I think twitter's problems come down to three separate areas which are intersecting:
Stop! You have to be reviewed.imposes a cost to using the API, and that is a good thing. If you're just screwing around, use the sandbox. If you want to distribute code built on the twitter API, then there's a cost. Whether there's a financial cost or not is up to twitter.
Hey, let's not just slander them, let's take out what chance they have at a successful business model too!), or claimed that it's some sort of public resource. Just chill. Twitter's problems are solvable. Not necessarily easily solvable, but solvable.
.net culture is fickle. The amount of time it would take to rebuild twitter on–the–fly as I’ve outline isn't very long, maybe weeks if one starts with a clear hand and blank sheet of paper, months under the current firestorm setup. But the various .net glitterati would just as soon shove twitter under the water, than see it succeed.
Imposing a cost to using twitter would have its own cost of course: what's made twitter grow is the API and the complete flexibility to develop applications and mashups against that API. Many of the mashups are only possible when the data and API use are financially free. Many of the clients are only possible when API use is transactionally free (or close enough).
Someone has to pay to use these services. If so many people find them to be useful, why hasn't a successful business model appeared for recouping the cost?
Watching twitter's struggles have been an education for me, not just for the technical issues they face, but also the network effects of the API usage, and the reaction and criticism they've received as they work through the technical issues.
Posted in Twitter
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