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Technology, journalism, social media and social responsibility

Twitter Locks One Birdcage, Throws Open Two Others

Just days ahead of Chirp, the Twitter developer’s conference in San Francisco, Twitter on Monday made two bold new moves: it threw open its database of user relationships, and introduced a new advertising model

Both moves are expected to powerfully enable the Twitter universe, but they come on the wings of a revelation last weekend that sent many developers scattering in fear.

What sent the developers aflutter was the annnouncement that Twitter had acquired Atebits and that it was adding new features that could effectively negate the usefulness of many third-party Twitter apps.

Up to this point, Twitter had been largely supportive of third-party development of Twitter-like applications, but rumors had been rampant that at some point, Twitter would draw the line or take up some applications development (or acquisitions) itself. 

With the acquisition of AteBits, Twitter caged Tweetie, an application that allows users of iPhones to access Twitter.

If that wasn’t troubling enough, Twitter also said that it had labeled as “official” an application that allows users of Research in Motion’s Blackberry smart phones to use Twitter on its devices.

The announcements caused enough disturbance on social media sites to prompt Ryan Sarver, director of the Twitter platform, to issue a statement in an attempt to calm the flock.

In an e-mail to the San Francisco Chronicle, Sarver said that Twitter’s decision to launch its own iPhone app was intended to end the confusion caused by the many Twitter applications on Apple’s App Store for the iPhone. The confusion, he said, was causing many new users to just give up.

“This means that we were missing out an opportunity to grow the user base which is beneficial for the health of the entire ecosystem,” Sarver said.

Importantly, he added that Twitter will continue adding new features, and acknowledged that “the potential to upset a company or developer that may have been building in that space and they then have to look for new ways to create value for users.”

Nevertheless analysts welcomed that last statement, saying that it is time for Twitter to begin adding new features and upgrading the functionality of the service – a call to action that should get many applications developers flying in formation.

One possible destination is the newly opened FlockDB, a relational database that keeps tabs on who is following or blocking who else on Twitter.  Though messy, the code is extremely efficient, processing huge amounts of data without getting bogged down. Twitter officials suggested that the newly opened code may be of use beyond Twitter itself as a framework for processing mammoth data streams.

But the “multibillion dollar question,” according to Mashable, is whether users will find Twitter’s new advertising model agreeable. The model enables what Twitter calls “Promoted Tweets” — essentially, advertisements in the Twitter stream. The ads will appear to be very much like any other Tweet, except for a small “promoted by X” line at the bottom of the Tweet frame. 

The more an ad “resonates”, the more often it can appear, while “bad ads” will be essentially lost.  The model is not unlike that used by Digg Ads, which has seen some success.


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This entry was posted on April 13, 2010 by in Art of Communication, Tech Trends.
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