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Hey @twitter, here's an idea

You're currently in the process of walling up your garden of API-awesome. All of this is happening because you need to earn money. You are about to kick the very thing that made you great. And continuing on that course, you'll lose in the long-run. Before getting to the idea, let me point out where you stand.

Have you ever considered the reasons anyone would be using Twitter over one of your competitors? Have you ever gotten the impression that "merely" serving as the central point of information exchange is the thing you're great at? I'm not using your website much. I've switched from using to Tweetbot. Not because I hate Twitter, but because they simply do the job of interfacing with a user - namely me - on a much better level.

I'm not using any of your clients, but I still claim to be tweeting. I still tell people I'm on Twitter. I still identify with your platform.

Why is that? Probably because you're the central and very integral part of this whole 140-character communication-sharade I've come to love.

The Idea

Wow, this must be a big revolutionary thing, nobody has ever thought of, right? No! In fact it's dead simple. Having figured out that you, dear @twitter, are an API-Service, you should be thinking about monetizing that API.

I'm currently thinking about throwing $50 down's throat. I'm willing to pay for service. The service I'm willing to pay for is not some limited Web UI or some iOS app. It's the communication infrastructure behind all that. And that, let me repeat myself, is what you are (to me).

Offer (quite) limited API-access to everyone for free. Then offer paid API-access for more bandwith or features. You can identfiy my user account. Since I have to authorize every app I want to use in conjunction with Twitter, you can identify them, too. Now, if I'm a paying user, simply allow the apps I've granted access to the better API-service I've paid for. How could that be any problem?

Please realize that I'm willing to pay for your API-service only. I'm not interested in your apps. I will pay others for allowing me to use their superior user interfaces. That said, I don't hate your software, I just find others did a better job than you. Accept that. Take my money. Rule the world.

At the moment I'm really looking at alternatives I would use in a post-Twitter era. Should you, however, get your shit together, I'd be more than happy to upgrade from Twitter User to Twitter Customer.

This post is a response to Changes coming in Version 1.1 of the Twitter API, Twitter to Client Developers: Drop Dead and Interpreting some of Twitter’s API changes.

Update 1

Various discussions on Twitter are based on the assumption of me thinking Twitter is on the way of sinking their ship. I do not think that is the case, per se.

I'm a web developer and the bulk of people I follow (and who follow me) are developers, too. We're a niche. A specific clientele. A flock living on the internet, mostly because it's where we work. We are not the average Twitter or Facebook users. We have different expectations. I'm pretty sure the average Twitter user is perfectly happy with how things are turning out. Let's not kid ourselves - in the grand scheme of things we are a minority.

For that very reason I do not believe Twitter will fail and die any time soon. Especially not after being tightly integrated into iOS and OS X.

What will (actually "might") happen is our niche moving on to different services. After all, we are the people capable of creating these services in the first place. We don't use tools we don't like. We rather create our own tools than using something that doesn't seem right. (Look at our open source world and you'll understand what I mean…)

Also I do not believe that Twitter hasn't thought of my "great idea" long before this post. I suppose they did and have found enough reasons to not pursue a paid service. I'm very clear on the fact that this post will move exactly nothing, except maybe put the thoughts of so many fellow developers into words the internet would have not seen otherwise.

The actual question still unanswered is: Where will we move to? Is it I have no clue. I'm not eager to jump ship. I will do so at the last reasonable moment.

Also read The Twitter API Insanity – What Everyone Seems to Be Missing


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Luca Hammer on :

Luca HammerThey could simply turn off API write access for everyone and sell this for pro users. No need for complicated limits and interfering with "good" services.

Beside the new limit the new guidelines seem to be the worst part of the changes because the prohibit twitter clients to be awesome.

Rodney Rehm on :

Rodney RehmI'm not sure disabling write-access by default is the way I would go, but it's definitely worth thinking about. This is the part that @twitter has to figure out how to handle, really.

If only "pro-accounts" were able to write via the API, what would happen to all those "tweet about XYZ" integrations? They'd be limited to that WebUI thing Twitter offers. Not sure if that has any other negative implications.

Frederic Hemberger on :

Frederic HembergerBesides the API monetization (come on, people pay 99 $/year to get on the AppStore), there are also other possibilities: I'd happily pay 5 $/month for an ad/spam-free Twitter experience (some other "pro-user" features would be nice, too, like better filters/search, etc).

5 $ doesn't seem much at first glance, but consider this: Twitter has about 140 million active(!) users. If only 1.5% would opt in for that 5 $ "pro" account, that would be 126 million $/year.

Not bad for a start, right?

Rodney Rehm on :

Rodney RehmConsidering that the remaining 98.5% are still susceptible to the advertisement plans of twitter, it is definitely worth investigating (from my point of view). But then, I don't have an MBA and am allowed to think outside of their weird boxes…

Jay on :

JayWell done to think of somheting like that

Garvin on :


I think Twitter is currently not realizing that we don't EXPECT them to be completely free, when instead they should realize their service is WORTH something to us, and that worth is only within the current terms, not the ones they are aiming at.

Andre Jay Meissner on :

Andre Jay MeissnerYou nailed it Rodney. Great post.

Kahlil Lechelt on :

Kahlil Lechelt@Garvin I actually think Twitter knows very well what Twitter means to us, but they just don't care.

The amount of smart people/geeks on Twitter who use it in an intelligent way must be a small minority of the users over all.

It becomes quite apparent sometimes when you look at the twitter trends or the stuff they think you want to see under the "#discover" tab.

I am sure they made the calculations and the amount of money they could make from people willing to pay for Twitter would never justify their valuation so they aggressively have to push for the ads thing.

Keep in mind they are under a lot of pressure to make millions or even billions of dollars... I think they really don't give a fuck about what geeks want right now. They must already expect to lose a lot of the geek user base.

Of course that is terrible. But that is just what Twitter is right now...

The thing is, it could actually work: imagine the kind of deals they can make with brands once they completely control the Twitter experience. They can actually track the complete life of a tweet and sell all kinds of packages and tweet-views... Makes me throw up. It's banner ads all over again.

Julie Ng on :

Julie NgI don't think pro accounts are the solution. I wish they were, but the problem is that the system is inherently broken. Some of us may be willing to pay, maybe even $50 a year. But my guess is that Twitter has closer to 50 million human users, of which maybe 1% will pay that price, amounting to a palsy $25 million a year. Is that enough to run a service as large as Twitter?

I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say no. We say we'd be able to pay them to go ad-free. But you know what? The advertisers are willing to pay more. And even one company with deep pockets may trump an active, yet niche Internet group.

To a certain extent the problem of costs and profit is infrastructure. But my guess is also all those acqui-hires. That's why I think the system is broken.

I hope I am not being pessimistic. I just want to be realistic.

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