A few days ago, I published a blog post about my views on the future of the open internet. The post mostly focused around Twitter which went from being a very open platform to becoming a very centralized platform completely killing 3rd party apps that it stole innovation from. I believe all these decisions were financial and were driven by pressure from the investors.
Twitter & 3rd Party Apps
A lot of features that we see today on Twitter were actually originally developed and created by 3rd party apps. In fact, the first twitter client for both Mac & iPhone were developed by 3rd parties. Some of the clients got acquired by Twitter including TweetDeck & Tweetie. TweetDeck’s support was killed from all platforms except for Mac. Thousands of other apps were ruthlessly killed by discontinuing API supports.
Twitter said the decisions were made to discontinue support for “legacy APIs” at the same time acknowledging that no new APIs will be created. In my opinion, the decision was a financial one, and largely driven by what the investors wanted off Twitter.
Fred Wilson, a VC who invested early-stage in Twitter said in a blog post he wrote in 2016
In the early days of Twitter, there were third party applications (Summize for Search, Tweetie for iOS client, etc). These were all built on Twitter’s API. If Twitter had imagined itself as a protocol instead of an application, these third party applications would not have had to compete with (or get bought by) Twitter. But at the time, there wasn’t an obvious way for Twitter’s founders and management team to benefit from a protocol-based business model.Fred Wilson
Posterous & Twitter
But the damage wasn’t limited to Twitter clients. Twitter acquired and closed other services too.
Posterous was an ultra-simple blogging platform with focus on social media integration and ultra-easy mobile blogging using emails with support for many forms of media.
Posterous grew at a very fast rate and had over 15 million users by 2012. They ran a wide-spread campaign asking users from smaller or dying platforms to import their blogs to this new dead-simple platform. Anyone who did that most likely regretted that decision as Twitter acquired Posterous in May 2012 only to shutdown the blogging platform, and all blogs hosted on it in the next 6 weeks.
All for financial reasons.
It’s Not Twitter
I don’t hate Twitter. I love it. But everything that Twitter has done was done in the financial interest. And somehow I don’t think it is what Jack wanted off Twitter. If he did, he would have had built Twitter like this from ground-up. But he didn’t. Because he had different plans for Twitter. Plans that obviously changed as financial concerns got in to the picture.
And it isn’t Twitter alone. I only expressed my thoughts with reference to Twitter in continuity of my original post about the open internet, which was also written with Twitter in mind.
All large tech companies have killed platforms and services, acquiring only to shutdown, for financial gains.
And while it looks sexy to say that we’re trying to change the world, with decisions like these we’re actually just trying to change our own lives and those of our investors’. As killing innovation isn’t how you change the world.