A thousandth take on the Twitter API kerfluffle: It’s not about the nerds

The thing that most of the commentators on Twitter’s API changes aren’t thinking about is this: Twitter started out as a cutting edge service used by the tech savvy. The people (myself included) who have been tweeting since 2006 or 2007 feel like they’re in some small way responsible for the services current mainstream success. Any maybe they are, but Twitter doesn’t see it that way.

For good or ill, Twitter finds itself with half a billion registered users, a cultural touchstone second only to Facebook and YouTube and needs to figure out how to turn those 500 million users (probably closer to half that, really, when you figure how many are inactive or SPAM accounts) into money to repay investors. Sponsored tweets could be quite lucrative, but only is EVERY user sees them. And as long as there are third-party applications, that’s unlikely.

Every iteration of Twitter has found the service moving away from a 140-character answer to “What are you doing right now?” and toward becoming a fully-fledged platform that can compete with the likes of Facebook and Google+. That’s why they introduced Twitter cards and media embedding in tweets.

And like a band that’s become mainstream and now irritates the hell out of its original hipster fan base, Twitter is trying to move away from pleasing the nerds and toward being a dominant way of communicating and consuming content.

So if it seems like Twitter doesn’t care very much about the developers who helped push widespread adoption, that might well be true. Or maybe it’s a case of “Thanks for all of your hard work, but we’ll take it from here.”

It’s not that Twitter doesn’t still love developers, just that it only loves developers of certain applications *.

But the nerds—the ones who saw the potential in Twitter, who lived through the growing pains of 2008 and 2009, who developed the clients that made Twitter better—aren’t the audience Twitter is reaching for any longer.

The fact that one of those applications is Klout makes me wonder where Twitter is really headed.


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