Thu 5/26 Traveling with Twitter


Driving has always allowed more freedoms than taking the train. Drivers get to pick their vehicle, they get to pick their passengers, and they get to pick their final destination. When you take the train you are the passenger, your vehicle is predetermined, your companions are preselected, and your destination is just another stop along the route.

Compared to Facebook, Twitter offers the same freedoms as driving. With Twitter the client you select is your vehicle, the people you follow are your passengers, and topics you Tweet about are your destination. With Facebook you are restricted to an approved client, you are required to follow the same people that follow you, and you are expected to post about your life.

I have always been a fan of Twitter because of the choices it allows. Twitter might own the road, but it gives drivers enough lanes to travel freely. On Facebook you are forced to ride the rails. When I was on Facebook they controlled the experience, and I always felt like I was being taken for a ride.

Traveling with Twitter began to change from a freeway to a turnpike when Twitter bought Tweetie and made it the first official Twitter coupe to hit the road for iPhone. Since then a whole fleet of Twitter branded clients have been unveiled for all of the major platforms. Twitter has said that 90 percent of active Twitters users use official Twitter apps on a monthly basis, but that number has yet to be verified. More disturbingly Twitter told third-party developers not to build client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience. And If you are an existing developer of client apps, you can continue to serve your user base, but we will be holding you to high standards to ensure you do not violate users’ privacy, that you provide consistency in the user experience, and that you rigorously adhere to all areas of our Terms of Service.

Last week Twitter gave users more control over what information users share with third-party applications. Applications that connect with Twitter using the customary xAuth standard of a username and password will no longer be entitled to a user’s direct messages. Applications that require access to direct messages must instead use OAuth that directs users to Twitter’s webpage for authorization. This change puts a speed bump in the way third-party applications get on Twitter but does not affect the official Twitter clients, which are exempt.

Twitter’s driver’s are being persuaded to adopt official Twitter clients, and Twitter’s third party developer’s are being driven off the road. Twitter says the changes are in the name of consistency and security but if that is the case why are Twitter’s official clients exempt? Twitter’s fleet of clients is hardly consistent, and if xAuth is secure enough for them why isn’t it secure enough for the vehicles that first brought Twitter to popularity?

Twitter’s open road is becoming far less open and that is a shame for drivers like me who choose to travel with Twitter because of the freedoms it allows. If at some point in the future I no longer get to pick all of my passengers, or if my destination is obscured by ads I may have to leave Twitter behind. I understand all Twitter is trying to do is control its own destiny and make money, but the regulations it is imposing are more restrictive to me than a 140 character limit. I would rather walk alone than be forced to ride the restricted rails of another Facebook competitor.