Last week I raged about how App.net would never reach critical mass because the service only addresses developer pains and that just isn’t good enough to sustain growth.
Fast forward a week and Twitter releases a new developer guideline document that is creating even more pain in the community, the exact sort of problem that App.net is claiming to solve. It is a perfect storm of anger backed by a successful entrepreneur who is all ready to capture and convert these missteps into a new business and it might just work.
Previously I wrote that Dalton couldn’t possibly compete with Twitter and Facebook who have billions in combined users and total dominance in their respective social spaces. The David vs Goliath battle between Dalton’s startup and one of those behemoths would be like watching the US Olympic basketball team take on my middle school basketball team. Dalton wouldn’t have a chance to even score a basket.
Today however I’m wondering if the battle would be a lot closer, if Dalton could score a few baskets. I’m questioning the importance of developer trust and wondering if it might be a big enough pain to actually make room for a new social platform.
Consumers want choice, they want solutions that solve their problems and with a thriving developer community, you’ve got a lot of choice, its easy to find the right solution. Twitter embraced this concept early on and their developer community created solutions that serve every possible type of user from corporate professional to casual consumer. Take away those options and you are left with what Twitter produces internally which narrows the list quite a bit.
Its all about extensibility
Myspace is a good example of how a social network with massive lead can loose it all to a company that creates more options. Facebook embraced extensibility and users flocked to the platform. If Myspace had created a rich developer community that allowed others to build into their platform, I think they would’ve had a solid chance to be relevant today.
Why would Twitter alienate the very developers that helped grow their business into a dominate social platform? Even if they are looking to do a better job in monetizing the service, there has to be a way to include developers in those plans.
Some say it is a question of maintaining quality, but I argue that if Twitter is worried about the quality of solutions that are associated with their service, then they can do more to vet solutions. Setting up arbitrary restrictions on their API isn’t going to do anything but alienate developers and do nothing to keep the poorly executed apps from utilizing the service. Apple solved the quality problem by creating an App Store approval team that reviews each application before allowing it to go live. (Although their team of reviewers still allows pretty bad apps to get through.) I can’t say that I agree with this sort of approach, but it shows that there are alternatives to maintaining quality on their platform.
I don’t agree with the decisions that Twitter has made in the past few months and I think this most recent one is going to do more to destroy their developer community than it will to improve their bottom line. Its a perfect storm for App.net, the startup that I’ve been so negative about. Nicely done Dalton. Nicely done.