As you probably know, Twitter has an API which allows 3rd-party developers to use Twitter’s capabilities (tweeting, reading tweets, etc.) in their own apps (think TweetDeck or Twidroyd).
As you also probably know, Twitter is a big advocate of freedom of expression, as they refused to take down Wikileak’s Twitter account during Cablegate, and they all but condemned the Egyptian government for blocking access to Twitter during the revolution when Mubarak was in power (because they really believe in open government, freedom of speech, and most importantly, Twitter users).
But, as you know, Twitter recently blocked some 3rd party applications (Twidroid, UberSocial, and others) from accessing Twitter’s API, rendering them purposeless. The Twitter applications that they blocked for several days actually control about 10% of all Twitter traffic, and that’s pretty much, kinda why Twitter shut them down.
According to Twitter spokeswoman Carolyn Penner, one of the reasons for the shutdown was: “changing of tweet content in order to make money.” What’s the point of an API if developers can’t do anything with the content from the API, exactly? The other reasons were more vague: like trademark infringement. Really, Twitter? You’ve been promoting and encouraging 3rd-party developers that use your name in some fun way in their own app and company names. Why the sudden change of heart? Most “experts” claimed that Twitter’s legal department made the push for the 3rd-party apps shutdown for this as a preemptive strike, just in case, someone actually stole Twitters’ users through Twitter…
And I think we should all just put everything on the table. That’s why they did it. Ubermedia, the company that owns all the apps that were shut down by Twitter recently, is run by tech pioneer Bill Gross (follow him on Twitter, if you’re not already). He’s the guy who pretty much came up with Google’s billion dollar ad industry concept in the 90s through a start-up he sold for north of $1B called goto.com. So, he’s pretty much a Silicon Valley wonder boy who was buying up all the 3rd party developer apps recently, and Twitter got a little nervous. So, they pretty much threw some random infringment claims UberMedia’s way and shut ’em down….
Because that’s what privately-owned entities can do: they can say: “get off my property, even though I invited you in” or “do well, but not too good, or I’m ousting you.”
There was a big uproar all throughout Twitter (and I was a part of it), and eventually Twitter restored access to UberMedia apps, but not without making a point: it’s freedom of expression, on our terms. Moreover, that, UberMedia, is kinda what it’s like to be a minority in America, in case you ever wondered.
The lesson learned here is: people can unite to make a difference, but ultimately, an API exists on someone’s server, and whoever owns that server makes the rules. Period.
Sucks. In further news, JP Morgan now owns 10% of those servers.