Ever notice how fear is the first reaction to many tech announcements that tell us things will change? Twitter’s announcement of developing an ad platform has quite a few developers and users expecting the worst, using past actions by big companies as testament. Maybe the “bad” thoughts are with merit. Then again, maybe naysayers are too quick to react.
On Wednesday, PCMag Digital Network Editor in Chief Lance Ulanoff posted a plea for Twitter not to kill TweetDeck, a desktop application for managing Twitter accounts. It’s more versatile than Twitter itself, and even has a slicker look. Ulanoff is concerned Twitter is moving in the wrong direction – that it will start filling its own holes and essentially leave third-party developers in the lurch. He likens this practice to that of Microsoft’s when they developed Windows 95.
Now, Ulanoff is no slacker. He’s got loads of experience under his belt and has been contributing to our digital world for decades. And, his concerns aren’t isolated. Thousands of tweets and posts have emerged citing the same fear – that Twitter will either buyout or otherwise shut down third-party applications of which so many users have grown fond. I use HootSuite and Twee for Palm WebOS myself.
Let’s not miss the key point here, though. Twitter needs a revenue stream. I think Twitter knows that offering display ads in the middle of our tweets isn’t very viable.
Here’s what I see:
- Twitter knows that a good number of companies with a Google Buzz account only maintain it for the sake of reaching just a few more people, and quite a few of the company and personality Buzz profiles actually promote following on Twitter. This tells the powers-that-be that Twitter is top-choice, and they need to keep it that way while also turning some sort of profit.
- Every software company and service has holes that need filling. In my own field, Miva Merchant continues to update their software, rendering some developed modules useless. These updates, however, make the software more appealing, more “sellable” and more competitive. After the first “fear” reaction dies out, developers realize there are still plenty of perceived holes to fill, especially if people want to do the same things differently.
- Ulanoff explained that Microsoft’s upgrades sent many companies out of business. Frankly, I was tired of having to buy so much additional software just for utilities that really should have been part of Windows.
- I also say that any company that can’t find the other holes or “fixes done wrong” so they can stay in business are closed-minded. If a business’ product goals don’t adapt to growing technology, they shouldn’t even exist.
- You cannot compare Twitter to Microsoft. Twitter is a free service, which gives it full range to take steps to actually make money.
- Perceived, or even lightly spoken obligations are only good at the time they are actually made (or perceived to have been made). Are there morals involved? Sure. But this is also business. Just as you cannot compare Twitter to Microsoft, you also can’t compare it to, say, the issue between Apple and Adobe.
- Ulanoff, like thousands of other power-tweeters, admits to rarely visiting twitter.com. How can anyone expect Twitter to make money if a good percentage of its high-end users utilize the service without visiting its site.
I think Twitter has a great opportunity here to enhance the service without over-infringing on the interface. I also still see plenty of opportunity for third-party developers to fill holes that Twitter might not ever, or may not even care, to fill themselves. Let’s give them a chance to listen to what we want and make money in the process.