December 09, 2009

Twitter Maturation Continues As They Embrace Developers

As Twitter grows from early adopter curiosity to full-fledged mainstream phenomenon, the company is undergoing a much-anticipated and much-welcomed maturation process, one that comes following the company's highly-visible raise of a significant venture capital round, which valued them at a billion dollars, the hiring of well-respected team members from Valley titans Yahoo!, Google and Facebook, and the recent roll-out of new features to the platform, including Retweets and Lists. Today, at LeWeb, Ryan Sarver, Twitter's director of platform, unveiled even more proofpoints that show the company is moving beyond its shaky relationships with developers (and uptime) and looking forward to a more public, more robust experience.

Over the last two years, some of my more public criticisms of the service have centered around the company's struggles with uptime, and lack of transparency with developers, who often got short shrift as Twitter worked to keep its products stable, throttling API access or changing functionality, often with no warning. The results, in some cases, were drastic, leading to products being delayed, canceled, or simply rendered ineffective.

Though it seems like ancient history now, it was just July of 2008 when Tweetmeme relaunched after struggling with Twitter's API. (See also from July '08: Twitter Chokes Unauthenticated API Requests By IP, Sites Gasp for Air) It was June of this year when TweetStats was taken down for 24+ hours for other issues, and April when Twitter reduced the functionality of auto-follow services.

This history was a major reason I started out so sour on Twitter, saying Every Time I Try To Embrace Twitter, They Push Us Away in January of this year and noting in May that Twitter's Search Engine Is Very, Very, Broken. But the Web moves fast, and there's little that some great talent and serious money can't fix. By October, I mentioned that the Web is effectively Twitter's world and we all just live in it. Today, at LeWeb, Sarver took some of the major issues I have seen in the developer community and approached them head-on.

As summarized elsewhere, including by TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb, Sarver announced some major initiatives, including the opening of the firehose to all developers, a new Web site dedicated to developers to leverage others' activity and search on known issues, the increase of OAuth requests to Twitter from a mere 150 an hour to 1,500, a 10x increase, and the introduction of a Twitter developers conference, called Chirp, in San Francisco in 2010.

Following his presentation, I talked with Ryan and told him that it was a pleasure to see Twitter growing in front of us, saying the developer moves are aimed at the holes I have seen in their interaction with the community and the platform. I have been very pleased with Twitter's publicly telling users about upcoming features in advance, and today's announcements do more to cement this company as one that is to be respected and trusted.

As Ryan said multiple times in his presentation, much of what makes Twitter a success today originated from its users, and the success of Twitter depends on the success of the users. Now, developers are going to be increasingly part of the team, and not on the outside looking in.

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