Breaking My Twitter

Over the years there’s been many issues with Twitter. Basic at the start, constant fail whales and then tremendous growth coupled with every brand, company, personality and interesting folk like you and me jumping on. I loved it. Then we saw hashtags, conversations, trending topics, filters, muting, timeline syncing and many many other features driven by third party app’s and eventually (mostly) adopted by Twitter themselves either by implementing and supporting a feature or buying a much love third party app.

Then Twitter needed to make money and grow to try and match Facebook et all.

So in come adverts, messing with timelines and deciding what I should see and in what order, showing my friends retweets…the list of decisions that alienated me as a user was long but that didn’t matter as I could use Tweetbot or Twitterrific to let me use Twitter how I wanted to use it. That only lasted so long.

Twitter fired the first warning shots to third parties by limiting how many users they could support. Then they started changing and updating API’s. That was the first sign that the writing was on the wall for third party apps. From today they are trying to strangle third party apps by shutting down old API’s and limiting what third parties can do. Arse.

While the API’s might be buggy, slow, costly I can understand that issue if it was maintained by a third party but they are written and supported by Twitter. The official mail they’ve sent out to their staff today smells of bullshit:

The User Streams and Site Streams APIs that serve core functions of many of these clients have been in a “beta” state for more than 9 years, and are built on a technology stack we no longer support. We’re not changing our rules, or setting out to “kill” 3rd party clients; but we are killing, out of operational necessity, some of the legacy APIs that power some features of those clients. And it has not been a realistic option for us today to invest in building a totally new service to replace these APIs, which are used by less than 1% of Twitter developers.

They’ve killed the API’s and decided not to replace them. They’ve decided to strangle the third party app’s that have driven so much of what Twitter is now. They quote that less than 1% of dev’s used the API’s killed today but I’d bet that a large proportion of influential and what I’d call power users are making use of these third party app’s that are now being neutered. They also talk about understanding why people use these third party app’s instead of their own. Maybe because you’ve killed them – where’s the Twitter app for Mac? How’s Tweetdeck? They’ve also published a blog about these changes which read’s as a big ‘fuck you’ to any user of a third party app and particularly developers of these services. I don’t think I’ve seen a company shoot itself in the foot in public more than Twitter have recently.

The mess they’ve got in to over the last 2-3 years around how toxic their platform is and the inability to take action on haters, abusers and nazi’s beggar’s belief at times. Despite that there’s so much value on Twitter which I why I stick around. So, what to do?

You could do like many are stating and deactivate your account from tomorrow. You’ve got thirty days to change your mind and it’s about trying to change Twitter’s direction…almost a ‘take back control’ moment which hopefully has a better outcome than the last campaign to use that slogan.

You could also move to another network. Mastodon has been around for a couple of years and is seeing some pretty good growth over the last two weeks thanks predominantly to Nazi’s. Go figure. It’s a bit more confusing to use than Twitter and I can’t see brands, politicians, celebs etc etc moving but it’s got potential for the tech community as has micro.blog which is a paid option for hosting your short form content. Again it’s niche but the conversation is good and toxicity levels low if not non-existent.

I’ll be investigating the latter two options and looking at how best to trim down my Twitter use which will be hard as I still have a lot of time for the platform. I surface great content through it and love the interactions that it offers. If Twitter would focus on dealing with toxic users and gave me some better app options even if that meant paying for, in my eye’s, an improved service then I’d be happy. Unfortunately it looks like a change in leadership is required for any of this to happen as the direction of travel is breaking my Twitter.

App.net

Just under a month ago App.net launched it’s own Kickstarter style appeal. Give us $500,000 and we’ll launch a real-time social service where users and developers come first, not advertisers. This would be a paid for social network where user and developer concerns outweigh advertisers. This would be a social network unlike any others as you would have to pay every year to continue using the service. A paid alternative to Twitter.

This all stemmed from the threatening and changing tone from Twitter. Where initially they wanted the support of developers (and indeed saw many features grow organically from the user community) over the last 6-12 months there is a definite change in how they work with third party developers and an increase in adverts. A service like Twitter doesn’t come cheaply so the adverts are a necessary evil for a free network.

App.net promise an advert free network and fully open API. It sounded great but I was and still am sceptical. Will it attract the numbers required to make it useful? Will it become a walled garden? Will it get third party support? There’s a pessimistic/realistic post from MG Siegler that sums up many of the problems App.net faces.

The idea still appeals though, hence I’ve signed up. I like paying my way on the internet if I get a better service. I pay for Flickr as it keeps it ad free for me and I still think it’s a great site despite the many free options out there. I pay for web hosting despite wordpress.com as I get more control over how my site works. I’m hoping that by paying for App.net that I’ll get rich conversations, I won’t have to suffer adverts and it should be spammer free – how many spammers and trolls wil pay $50 a year? I guess I also have expectations that may be difficult to deliver initially as it’s a brand new service up against the like of Twitter and Facebook, but if people don’t support ventures like App.net then we will forever be used to selling our privacy and data for allegedly free web services. Like many have said, I’d pay for a premier Twitter account if it could keep me advert free, gave me full search etc.

I hope App.net succeeds but even if it doesn’t I’m hoping that it will at least jerk Twitter into providing a better service longer term. With three days to go it will be touch and go to get the $500,000 funding but they are progressing – the alpha is now live and the API spec is available on Github. Will I see you on App.net?