The smartest thing Twitter ever did was externalize their data through an API. It created an active third party community that supported Twitter when times were tough and they didn’t have the resources to develop clients for all the platforms that needed them. That developer community was based on the Web 2.0 business model, which meant many of these apps were angel or VC funded, silly as that now seems. Thankfully, the Web 2.0 model, or what I call Arrington capitalism, is finally passing. There will still be developers who think they can make hundreds of millions of dollars by creating the next great Twitter app, but they will be rare.
The next phase of development is starting for Twitter. That will involve independent consultants and corporate developers integrating Twitter into websites and marketing systems. Nobody will get rich from this, but it is critical for Twitter’s success. If Twitter thinks of their API as a strategic component of their growth, which they seem to do, they must now treat developers as a labor force. They need to make sure it is possible for developers to get paid for building Twitter apps.
This is a much older business model that goes back to the Eighties for PC software, and before that for larger systems. I have some experience with that world, and I plan on nagging Twitter HQ into showing more respect for this type of developer. I’ve been exchanging emails with Taylor Singletary (@episod) on this issue, and he’s been honest about how little resources are devoted to helping developers get whitelisted. I think this approach is based on the Web 2.0 model. If a VC funded company asks to “partner” with Twitter, they get plenty of attention. If a small-time developer asks, they stay at the back of the line and don’t even get a response. This isn’t Taylor’s fault. He needs a lot more help. If Twitter fails to provide it, they will waste all the work they have done in building the API in the first place.