Twitter Has 6 Months to Prove It’s Not Evil

Sina Weibo logoA few months ago, I stood behind Twitter when they changed their developer guidelines and asked developers to stop making Twitter clients (something Twitter had historically left to third parties). Today, albeit tentatively, I’m still willing to back Twitter on that move. However, I do have to draw a line in the sand.

On May 25, Twitter acquired TweetDeck, but founder Iain Dodsworth promised TweetDeck would continue innovating and growing, saying:

Change may well be inevitable, but we remain the same team, staying in London, with the same focus and products, and now with the support and resources to allow us to grow and take on even bigger challenges.

Rumor has it that Chinese microblogging service Sina Weibo (Twitter is also a microblogging service) is preparing to launch an English version to take on Twitter and will be going in live within 3 months.

Why TweetDeck Is a Major Factor

Regularly updating Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other services every time you want to share something with your social network runs counter to the purpose of social technologies—to make it easier to socialize. That’s why Facebook lets you link to Twitter, services like Foursquare, Flickr, YouTube and Gowalla link to both, and MySpace is pretty much dead.

Competition among these services is inevitable, even if most competitors are doomed to failure (think Buzz). And we need that competition to fuel innovation and encourage good behavior. But how can a service like Sina Weibo pierce the market outside of China? TweetDeck.

Multiservice apps like TweetDeck are the easiest way for newbies to get a foot in the door. If it takes literally no more effort for me to also post to Weibo while posting to Twitter, I’d happily do it. I did it with Buzz up until the point that I realized posting their was akin to shouting into a deep, empty, lonely cave, and I’d happily afford Weibo at least that much. In fact, using TweetDeck for Android, I’d do the same while mobile.

If I found Weibo more suitable to my needs, I’d start making them my primary channel and shuffle Twitter to the background. If enough of my social network did the same, Weibo would be come more relevant to me than Twitter.

That’s pretty much the only way I see myself migrating to a Twitter competitor, one tiny step at a time. But Twitter has a wildcard—they could stop it from happening.

Now that Twitter has said developers should stop producing Twitter clients and purchased TweetDeck, Weibo’s fate is in their hands: If TweetDeck doesn’t integrate with Weibo, the odds are extremely high that another consumer-friendly multiservice app won’t be allowed to either. Twitter will simply kill the app’s access to the Twitter service, saying that TweetDeck already serves that purpose and the new app is redundant.

If the Government Gets Involved, We’ll All Hate Twitter

It’s situations like this hypothetical one that bring in the antitrust bureaucrats, like the recently disbanded panel of Microsoft watchdogs. Although I’d have a hard time not LMAO if our tax dollars went towards paying someone to make sure Twitter was behaving fairly, I’d also be furious that Twitter’s greed led to unnecessary government oversight of the social media world. Hopefully it doesn’t happen, but come on, you know it will eventually.

Six Months From Now

It took TweetDeck three months to integrate Google Buzz. Weibo is expected to launch in English in three months. In my opinion, either TweetDeck can integrate Weibo by December or Twitter can invite the DOJ to its company holiday party. Hopefully I’m just a doom-sayer, though.


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One Response to Twitter Has 6 Months to Prove It’s Not Evil

  1. Shel Holtz says:

    I have long argued that Twitter’s success rests on two platforms. First, it’s flexible as hell; you can make it what you want it to be. Need a channel for distributing news? For keeping a group of friends up to date on your activities? For engaging consumers? For providing customer service? Twitter can do all that, and more. Second, they were (despite the fact that they’re a walled garden) very open. The API enabled the development of hundreds of tools and resources that leveraged Twitter as Twitter itself couldn’t do. One of the avenues of development was Twitter apps. Twitter itself didn’t have the chops to develop Tweetdeck; it took an outsider with access to the API. Even Proctor & Gamble recognizes the value of outside development — 70% of its new product ideas come from beyond its walls. Now Twitter is behaving more like a big corporation, throwing up roadblocks to innovation. It’s a mistake and ultimately will not serve them well…certainly not as well as openness has done so far.

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