I read Marco Arment’s post [1] yesterday about Twitter from a developer’s point of view. I agree with all he said, but came to a different conclusion.

21 Oct

I read Marco Arment’s post [1] yesterday about Twitter from a developer’s point of view. I agree with all he said, but came to a different conclusion.

1. Yes, Twitter screwed its developers.

2. But Apple did too. I was a Mac developer in the 90s, and Apple did a series of reversals, for the same reasons Twitter did. Changes in management. Stock market pressures. Corporate confusion. The return of the founder. First System 6 was to be “it,” then Copland, then NextStep, and finally they bundled apps that, they said, made ours obsolete. They didn’t, but that wouldn’t have mattered. So we left. And like Marco, re Twitter, stayed away.

3. But Marco is an Apple developer. I’m sure he doesn’t overlook their past transgressions, but if you want to make software for a corporate platform, these are the risks. They all will eventually screw you. Is it worth it anyway? That’s for each of us to decide.

4. I make news software. Given what I do, I have to work with Twitter. The only other options are to change what I do, or to retire. I’ve tried that. But I keep coming back. I like what I do.

5. My approach is to have more than one leg. I send news to Facebook, to RSS and to the web via HTML. If Twitter screws us again, I’ll still have the other legs. And, because the other legs are there, I think Twitter is less likely to screw us.

6. Also, I’d bet on this: Twitter is not going to screw us in the short term. They need us as much as we need them. Independent developers are where wholly new ideas come from. You can’t hire people to do that to work inside companies. They are subject to the mess that companies are, always. Twitter is no exception. Just look at history. It’s always independent developers that break through. Twitter desperately needs this. Their internal development has to go in a certain direction. With developers creating new stuff, they have a chance at some new ideas developing around their platform. The more limits they put out there, the less chance there is. Do they understand this? I don’t know. I hope so.

7. They are a public company, and I have a voice. I can talk to users, other developers, their competitors, the press. If Twitter reverses, again, visibly, it won’t be a quiet thing, as it was last time. They’re in a different place now. And when it happens, assuming it does, while I am still developing, the world will be in a different place too. It’s impossible to foresee how it will go, but it almost certainly will not go the way it did last time.

8. Corporate platforms always have this problem. The best thing is for us all to invest in our collective interest, and create alternate ways to flow news that are not centralized, where there’s no company that can shut us down. I would argue that long-term this is even in Twitter’s interest, but Marco — you and I and every other independent developer, we have collective interests. We’ll do better if we, in addition to supporting the corporate platforms that we have to, also invest in open platforms that work alongside them.

[1] http://www.marco.org/2014/10/20/wsj-twitter-peace-offering

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