Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Black Widow

Remember that time you could launch a new application, and find your friends really easily with it by connecting your Twitter account? Those days are over, my friend. First, it was LinkedIn. Then, Instagram lost the feature. Both of these losses are due to Twitter’s ever-tighter API restrictions.

There’s been another casualty. Matthew Panzarino of The Next Web explains:

The enormous blogging platform Tumblr appears to have become the next property after Instagram to have its friend-finding privileges revoked. The option to find people that you know using Twitter has been removed from the site after its axing was predicted by Matt Buchanan in an article on Buzzfeed earlier today.

The sign-up procedure of Tumblr normally includes a step that allows you to find friends on the service using Facebook, Gmail and Twitter. Now, the Twitter option has been removed.

This sucks for users, and it appears that even Twitter engineers dislike these changes. But Tumblr’s change happened in the midst of negotiations to be one of Twitter’s Cards partners, according to the Panzarino post and Marco Arment:

I’m not aware of any such history with Tumblr, so I can’t think of any reasonable explanation for Twitter’s motives here other than the obvious one: Twitter will now only permit large services to add value to Twitter, not get any value from it.

And Tumblr was (is?) even working with Twitter to be a major Cards partner.

This “value” argument seems to be a running theme amongst posts regarding this shift. Developers aren’t allowed to use Twitter as a way to add value to their apps or services unless they’re also adding value to Twitter itself. That’s harsh. Dustin Curtis has a few words to say about that:

The solution Twitter has taken involves barricading the walled garden, keeping the valuable tweet data inside Twitter, and removing all incentives for people to move to other, similar platforms.

The problem with this solution is that Twitter was built on the backs of the very developers it is now blocking. It now expects those developers to continue supporting Twitter by syndicating content into its platform, but it no longer wants to provide any value to developers in return.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Twitter wins that bet, to the frustration of the developers and users who began using the service, and who made it great. Hell, Twitterrific alone was responsible for the bird mascot, character counts, @replies (in conjunction with users and Twitter’s engineering team), and the coining of the word “tweet”.

Twitter wants users and developers to add value to their service, but not take any from it. That’s a big bet.