Questions to Twitter based startups


On August 06,2 009 , an update on the Twitter blog read “Denial of Service Attack”

This led to a frenzy in the online world which has gotten addicted to Twitter. I am no exception and experienced withdrawal symptoms too. Twitter has gone mainstream in a very short time and has people hooked like nothing else. Facebook, Orkut, MySpace all from the ‘Social Networking‘ stable have not witnessed the pace of growth that Twitter has. Twitter_DDOS_attack

With twitter gaining importance, it is imperative that it will be subjected to a lot of attacks. And so does twitter, with their share of malware and DDOS attacks like this one. But then, Twitter is basically Open Source with hardly any Revenue Model. If it goes down once in a while, there ain’t much to lose for the twitter folks out there. Isn’t it?

But, then are we forgetting the huge number of twitter based desktop/web applications that solely rely on the Twitter API. What happens to them? They are doomed, aren’t they.

And this got me thinking.

Aren’t Startups running Twitter API’s building houses on a rented land?

You are a start-up who has taken the Twitter API and exploited it in a way making your product the best there is. The concept is brilliant and out of the box. You have a traffic that anyone would kill for.And suddenly, twitter gets DDOSed. Boom!! Back to Reality, your product won’t work.

No matter how secure and bug free your product is, there is nothing you can do about it until the twitter folks get the issue sorted out. This could be minutes, hours or days. And I don’t even have to mention the amount of revenue that can be lost even with your product(application) down for a day. Every single second matters in the Internet Space.Moreover, there is nothing you can do about it.

Ok. So this was only a one-off screw up and my product has a sticky user base. They will come back when things are in order and they understand. I am sure they do, but the nagging question I have in mind is,

What If Twitter Pulls Off It’s API and OAuth?

Now, I agree that I might be exaggerating and there are remote chances of twitter resorting to that, but then isn’t it possible. And, my question to the Startups using the Twitter API is this,

How good is your product without the twitter API and OAuth?

Please keep in mind that I am not trying to sell twitter based Startups short. Infact, I am a frequent user of lot of Twitter Based Apps myself and they make life easier for me. But, all I want to ask is, if the Start-up folks have given this small bit a thought or do they have a contingency plan at hand.

Moreover, I have a doubt on how the Venture Capitalists see this as. There are a few Twitter Based Start-ups that have managed to secure decent amount of funding. – the famous URL shortner is among them. It may not be exactly twitter based, but then the need for URL Shortners arrived because of Twitter’s 140 char limit, isn’t it. So, for Venture Capitalists the question I have is,

How do you value a Start Up Which is Running On A Public API?

And, for that matter, let’s not single out Twitter for this. This I think holds good for anything and everything running on Public API’s. Not sure if I can generalize it, but even though we give a lot of weightage to Open Source, is there a slightest chance that the very foundation that we build out Start Up product might be a little shaky.

The reasons for this generalization stems from the recent Acquisition of SUN by Oracle. Now, the financial terms are very well known of this acquisition but the technicalities are not. SUN being primarily an Open Source Provider with millions of applications running on its products gets acquired by a private behemoth. Is Oracle still going to let the current applications running on SUN or atleast going to support them in Future.T he Folks at Oracle or Sun have not been forthright on this issue.

PS: This post does not mean

  • That Twitter Based Apps are bad
  • That Open Source Is Not The Way To Go
  • That Start-Ups harnessing Twitter/Public API’s are not doing anything great.

Infact, this post is anything but that. It is a post which is full of questions with no answers at all. The idea of the post is to seek insights and answers. So, if there is anything you can share that could help getting the answers, I will be very thankful.

  1. Sumit Singh Gambhir says

    gr8 post. Good questions a good laundry list to keep in mind for any twitter based follow up

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