The Trouble with Twitter

I’ve been feeling increasingly dismayed by the way in which Twitter seems to be going.

Twitter has made itself into essential Internet plumbing, largely by behaving in an open way.  Twitter’s API has encouraged developers to contribute to a rich ecosystem of third party clients.  In fact, Twitter’s growth can at least partly be attributed to the way in which developers created clients for iOS and other platforms which greatly boosted mobile usage.  Around a year to 18 months ago, though, Twitter began talking about “consistency of experience”.  There were posts discouraging third party client developers and, more recently, threats to start clamping down on developers who aren’t following the ever tightening guidelines.

So Twitter wants to funnel all its users through official channels that it controls.  If Twitter achieves this, it can force people to see advertising.  Third party clients can quite easily offer options to ignore “Sponsored Tweets”, or anything else that users don’t want to see.  Twitter needs to make money, and the approved way to do that on the Internet is by getting eyeballs onto ads.

“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads. That sucks.”

Jeff Hammerbacher, quoted in Businessweek

I find this incredibly depressing.  I have a huge distaste for adverts, and I would happily pay to avoid them, but Twitter won’t take my money.  I suppose that part of the reason for that is that all the people with money to do so would probably pay to avoid the adverts, and the people without the money aren’t in the target demographic for most advertisers.

Dalton Caldwell, however, will take my money.  His blog post, “An Audacious Proposal”, asserts that “advertising is not the only way”, and his Kickstarter-style project, app.net, is a bold attempt to grab the market of people who would pay for Twitter-without-ads.

Like a Kickstarter project, this will only go ahead if it is funded (to the tune of $500,000, equating to around 10,000 users) by Monday August 13 at 11:59PM PDT.

For what it is worth, I encourage you to visit join.app.net and join the revolution!