Twitter has generated a fair bit of unrest lately, much of it in the developer community. The main source of this unrest is changes to their API that make life nearly impossible for third party Twitter clients. Needless to say, this has riled up a good portion of the developer community.
The assumption has been that by making sure people were using their interface, Twitter could generate more advertising revenue. But today we learn it goes much deeper than that. Buzzfeed is reporting that Twitter is going after the “dream metric” of how many people saw your tweet.
The first question is “dream metric for whom?” Well, for marketers, of course. Personally my dream metric is how many people respond to something I say. Then I want to know if they liked it (not in the sense of Facebook “like”, in the sense that they enjoyed it). Maybe after that I’d like to know how many people read my post, but even then “see” and “read” are vastly different metrics.
So Twitter, desperate for revenue commensurate with its what-the-hell-were-you-smoking valuation, is transforming itself from a place for conversation into a place that provides a measurable audience. That’s fine, they have that right, but it will change Twitter and it’s community.
While it’s true that there will be tools like ad blockers, and eventually the Twitter equivalent of Social Fixer for Facebook, most people won’t go to the trouble of installing them, and if a significant proportion of users ever did, Twitter would take evasive measures. Inevitably the tone of Twitter is going to change from people saying things about what they do, to brands trying to get you to see their message. In my view, the unique thing about Twitter was its unvarnished nature. People said mundane things, they gave insights into world changing events as they happened, they made real-time news really real time. There was a reasonable level of privacy and anonymity, and some sort of sense of community. Twitter as a marketing platform will lose much of that.
Already, a significant number of people have elected to subscribe to app.net a paid version of Twitter (including me, you can find me as @yyz there). I’m honestly not sure about where app.net is going. I have no doubt it will thrive, but will it ever have an audience of hundreds of millions? I doubt it. Is it a place for developers who think open APIs are all that it takes? Is it a place for elitists who can afford to pay for services? Or will it be the place Twitter started out to be? Only time will tell. All I know is that over there I won’t be a Mass Marketing Opportunity, and that alone is enough for me.