Twitter Cracks Down on App Developers


riotADOTAS – Twitter and app developers used to be so close — “Come fill in my gaps,” the microblogger would coo to appmakers while it tickled its stream in a fashion that could be described as erotic. Developers, typically a shy group, turned a little red but shuffled their code on over. And the two satisfied each other for a long time considering the speed of social network development.

Alas, times change and venture funding doesn’t last forever — internally plugging all those holes that app developers had been filling. It became obvious Twitter was heading down this path last year when it bought Tweetie and rebranded it as the official Twitter mobile app.

And now in a sign that the relationship has really soured, Twitter has instigated a crackdown on apps improperly using its API.

From Twitter’s viewpoint, they’re just performing due diligence — suspending apps in violation of its API terms of service is a daily activity, though enforcement has been less than uniform. The key phrase in the contract says developers shall not: “sell, rent, lease, sublicense, redistribute, or syndicate the Twitter API or Twitter Content to any third party for such party to develop additional products or services without prior written approval from Twitter.”

Oh yeah, a few weeks ago Twitter dumped the “written approval” by axing its API Whitelist.

Following a spat with UberMedia, this morning the unfortunately named TwapperKeeper (it makes me feel weird just typing that) has been forced to kill its “Export and Download” and “API” features or face the wrath T. The tweet-saving app had been offering API access since it launched in 2009 and these functionalities were quite popular among users.

“What I’m seeing is, anybody who is ‘syndicating’ content, i.e. allowing it to be downloaded and exported in any structured way, is running afoul of the terms of service,” TwapperKeeper founder John O’Brien told ReadWriteWeb. “If it’s in HTML, it’s fine. The minute it became structured it became a problem.”

Since Dick Costolo grabbed the CEO chair, it’s been clear that driving revenue will be a high concern for Twitter. Monetizing the stream and cutting out freeloading app developers appear to be part of the strategy — and the T boys don’t seem to care whose feelings get hurt along the way, especially since the microblogger is coming up with homegrown plugs for the aforementioned gaps.

But TextCapital founder Jeff Pester notes that this slash and burn strategy is blocking off a potential revenue stream:

“Twitter should construct a model whereby commercial ‘rebroadcast’ companies like UberMedia can choose to monetize streams delivered on their platform(s) however they want, but they must compensate Twitter on some type of metered basis (API calls or other) for providing the underlying infrastructure that gives UberMedia the opportunity to monetize on Twitter’s back in the first place.”

Perhaps that revenue would be too incremental?


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