Twitter just put some hefty limits on developers. Third party clients like Tweetbot can no longer grow beyond 200% of the users they currently have. That may seem like a lot, but it’s not. It’s a fixed point down the road beyond which they can’t grow, or make money. They’ve been effectively rendered unprofitable by Twitter.
Here is something I wrote a few months back about the Facebook IPO. Just a few bracketed changes make it pretty relevant to the discussion about Twitter today.
Someone could be building something right now, in secret, that could obsolete [Twitter]. Software is ‘soft’ for a reason, it can change fast. [Twitter] could easily get overtaken by an upstart. Why do you think they’re so eager to [push out] anything that resembles competition? Remember when MySpace was a behemoth? Everyone forgot about MySpace in a short span of months. Microsoft and Apple have endured as software companies because of the complex and substantial connection they have to hardware platforms. The software behind [Twitter] is not quite trivial, but don’t forget, there are other smart kids in college dorms all over the place.
The idea that Twitter is a behemoth that can’t be overtaken is shortsighted. They shouldn’t be afraid of upstarts, but not because upstarts aren’t threatening. The reason they shouldn’t be afraid is that they should already be pushing toward what’s next. They should have a vision for what the future of communicating and sharing looks like, and be building it.
But from the looks of it, they aren’t. They’re just trying to protect what they’ve already built. That’s always a losing position… Always.