I have been meaning to write about Twitter’s handling of UberTwitter and how hard it is to run an API program when balancing that program against revenue targets. Â I certainly felt this when I was leading the Open AIM program. Â We were constantly debating internally what was more important, owned and operated AIM clients, or the “power of the network.” Â Twitter, I think is having some of these same internal discussions now.
For services and products that have open APIs, it is an awesome opportunity to grow your network and delight developers. Â APIs work well if they can directly contribute to your monetization through licensing, or indirectly by contributing to the ecosystem. Â Where it gets tricky is if your APIs do neither. Â Companies start putting in controls and terms that prevent developers from innovating, and it is a slippery slope.
I cannot speak for what is happening at Twitter. Â I love Twitter’s API, I have used it for years, and know that without that API, Twitter would not be here today. Â I can share what happened with OpenAIM, that early on we were able to monetize through licensing, but never took it seriously enough. Â Since we could not monetize indirectly off of OpenAIM, because monetizing AIM was always a difficult task, we started putting limits on the access and rules for developers. Â That was a death knell for OpenAIM, especially when Google had opened up GTalk. Â Hindsight being what it is, I wish we had pushed harder on the licensing front and basically completely opening up the rest of the program with no strings attached.
For Twitter, I hope they can find that balance that allows 3rd party developers to continue to have the access that they have enjoyed. Â Innovation is a great thing, and Twitter has to thank a lot of the developers who have used the platform to build things like TwitPic.