Twitter killing developers not so softly

If there is one thing other than celebrities that has spurred the momentous growth of Twitter it is the incredible developer community that has risen up around the service. I have said in the past that this has been one of the biggest strengths of Twitter because it allowed people to create clients and services around Twitter leaving it to concentrate on making the service better.

However as I noted when I was developing a Twitter client back in the first year of the service as much as Twitter needs these developers they do things that end up harming this marvelous community. It was one of the reasons I quit developing Twitbox because I had gut feeling that there would come a point when Twitter would make decisions that could harm any business built around their service. Well that point has come and we are only starting to see the repercussions.

In a post on the official Twitter blog the company announced that they were making changes in the way developer’s could access the Twitter API

For some time, we’ve limited the number of accounts that a single person can follow in a day to 1000. A few days ago, we found that this limit was not being consistently applied and we started enforcing it for all users.

While there are technical reasons behind having some limit on following activites, this per-day limit exists to discourage spamminess. Also, it is unlikely that anyone can actually read tweets from thousands of accounts which makes the mass following activity disingenuous.

This action prompted an immediate reaction by Jesse Stay, the person behind the SocialToo service, where he said on Twitter (via Friendfeed)

“WTF @ev and @biz! You could have responded to my e-mail I sent to you first. You just killed what was feeding my family: http://bit.ly/Nec72

First let me echo the sediments of Allen Stern from CenterNetworks when he says

I know it’s easy to build on top of Twitter or a quickie iPhone app, but do these “on top” services have staying power and real business potential? Before you say yes, now think about if Twitter or iPhone makes a change that alters the app’s ability to continue.

I realize that this sucks for developers like Jesse but not only is this unexpected but it is also going to be a trend we see happening I believe with more and more of these services that have so called open APIs. I would seriously suggest to all developers that you think long and hard about developing software; or web apps, that rely on the good graces of the hosting service.

To Twitter I would say this WTF are you thinking. Seriously. This is a severe mistake on your part to be chopping off developers at the knees like this. Developers who have given their all to make your service what it is. If you think that Twitter would be anything that it is today with only your web interface to the service you are severely screwed in the head.

The fact is your web interface sucks monkey balls but it is the developers out there who have managed to make something incredible useful out of something that is nothing but a bare minimum of a web application. Instead of this ridiculous short sightedness you should be trying everything in your power to improve your systems so that things like this aren’t necessary. After all what the hell are you going to do when the seeds planted by people like Oprah, Kutcher and other famous people start sprouting users like no tomorrow.

When that happens if you think that over the long haul people are going to be satisfied with just your anemic web interface you are sorely mistaken. You need all those developers that you have been cutting off at the knees but the only problem is that you’ve now succeeded in only scaring them off at the very least.

Dumb … very dumb.

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