May 26, 2010

MyLikes CEO Says User Plugs Don't Cross Twitter Ad Rules

Increasingly, some of the new rules issued from popular Web platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, are raising more questions than answers, with words so carefully interwoven as to be interpreted any which way. The call for clarity from Facebook around privacy and from Twitter around what is permitted in users' streams from developers and programs alike seems to be unending - and it seems at times that the companies are being obtuse so they can be selective on how they choose to endorse the rules down the line. Monday's announcement from Twitter on blocking "injected paid tweets" on any service that leverages the Twitter API had a lot of people asking what this meant for services who derive revenue from posting content to the service. MyLikes, a company I advise for, was one that received questions. I spoke with CEO Bindu Reddy (@bindureddy) that night to gain her take and get some of the answers myself.

As best as I am able to understand it, Twitter is continuing to try and improve the user experience on their service, which at times has been less than fantastic. On the back of their efforts to weed out spammers, reduce the artificially-inflated visibility of hand-selected celebrities, reduce negatively-intended automation, improving uptime, and expanding a familiar presence to onboard new users, Monday's announcement looks like they want to improve the clarity of sponsored content on the network, while also protecting their own revenue stream.

The relevant line in question from Twitter COO Dick Costolo, says: "aside from Promoted Tweets, we will not allow any third party to inject paid tweets into a timeline on any service that leverages the Twitter API." This line particularly focuses on the use of API for automation, and also the phrase "paid tweet", which is open for interpretation. What is promising in the piece is that Costolo says the company does not seek to control the content on the service, and that companies are open to sell ads, build vertical apps and analytics, and that the company does not always need to participate in revenue generated from their service. It sounds to me that Twitter is planning ahead for future battles with nefarious networks that are not in users' best interest, much more so than they are seeking to slow legitimate companies that have been built around their ecosystem.

As I mentioned when I first announced my affiliation with MyLikes, I am attracted to the company's model because the ads posted to Twitter, blogs and other networks are done by hand, by the users themselves, with the user creating the message. There is no automation on the user's behalf that they have not created themselves, and all the activity is above board.

In talking with Bindu, she agreed this sets the company apart from Twitter's foes. Also - a MyLikes generated tweet is as much of a personal endorsement as it is an ad, leaving this activity free and clear. In fact, while Costolo's post was somewhat confusing, we both agreed Twitter's move was one that continued their path toward maturation.

Update: You can also see Twitter API Lead Ryan Sarver (@ryansarver)'s comments on the situation here.

To hear more of Bindu's thoughts, check out the Cinchcast I recorded below:

DISCLOSURE: I am an unpaid advisor to MyLikes. I hold a small equity stake in the company. My comments on the company's product are always independent, and do not pass their way in advance.