Is Twitter Alienating The Developer Ecosystem Around It?


Twitter recently announced the addition of a brand new feature,

An inbuilt URL shortener ( within

A feature that is almost synonymous with the use of twitter now, the twitter web version never had it. URL shorteners might have existed before twitter came to foray but to my knowledge the adoption for them happened pretty much with the popularity of the twitter and its 140 character limit implying that there was pretty much no space for length URLS.


Now, twitter evidently has decided to add its own URL shortener to provide users the option to shorten links right from the twitter box. What’s more, even the links shortened using third party apps will be wrapped with URL. The reasons mentioned for this new feature are pretty straightforward and cater to the overall user experience as mentioned on the official blog post,

In addition to a better user experience and increased safety, routing links through this service will eventually contribute to the metrics behind our Promoted Tweets platform and provide an important quality signal for our Resonance algorithm—the way we determine if a Tweet is relevant and interesting to users

A welcome move some would say because twitter on the web does not have too much to offer. So, twitter with its URL shortener is making twitter web more appealing and also laying ground work for analytics.

All good, but being the skeptical self I am I have to ask,

What About The Developer Ecosystem Working Around Twitter ?

Let’s face it. Twitter has the developer ecosystem to thank for the kind of explosive growth it has had. From the beginning, the developer ecosystem has been putting the twitter API to use in innovative ways and has provided users with what twitter web lacked. Talking about URL shorteners, Bit.Ly has become pretty much the de-facto standard for sharing links on twitter. Now, what happens to a service like Bit.Ly?

Twitter mentions that people can continue to use third-party shorteners but they will wrapped in twitter’s own shortener- Well, with the service rolled out to every twitter user, Bit.Ly might be in for a tough ride because even if people continue to use it, Bit.Ly is bound to lose on branding.

Twitter also added another minor feature ‘ You both Follow’ which pretty much tells the users the common followers when they go onto other person’s profile. Not a deal breaker but there are quite a few third-party apps already providing that feature along with many more. What becomes of them?

One answer to these questions regarding the way ahead for the developers working around twitter could be , ‘Innovate’. Sure thing, that’s how all these different apps came about so the developer ecosystem will find the next big ‘Must Have’ feature.

But, is there no value of the creative minds who were quick to listen to user requests and provide these value added features. Now, I do not have the proof that twitter had all these new incremental features thought of but something tells me it may not. They are evolving seeing the value the developers are deriving out of twitter. So, could it be that Twitter is Feeding off its developer ecosystem( third-party apps) and then closing the door on them.

I remember writing an earlier article ‘Questions To Twitter Based Startups’ a while back where I had raised doubts on the same lines where in I asked the startups/companies creating services/products around Twitter as to what will happen if twitter closes the door on them. Well, it was all speculation at that point of time and may be it is still speculation but i have my doubts.

More than the threat these new incremental features from twitter can have on existing apps/services, there is one long term negative effect that is worth pondering.

What If The Developers Stop Working on creating new products around twitter with the fear that in due time twitter will introduce its own and shut the door on their(developers) product all together. Where will the new and innovative products come from then

I do not have any product development background so this might come across as an ill-educated guess. But, I figured it would be rather enlightening to get your perspective on the matter.

Would you as a part of the developer ecosystem working around twitter feel threatened by the new features introduced by twitter?

  1. […] back in 2010, Ankit Agarwal had written an article about exactly this scenario…very interesting read especially in present […]

  2. Niels van der Rest says

    It’s all about adding value.

    Google, for example, has the tendency to create their own version of virtually any service that is provided on the Internet. Gmail was a great success, because it added value to the user, compared to traditional email clients. Google Video, on the other hand, did nothing new compared to YouTube, so they decided to buy the competition instead. Google Wave has some interesting features, but most of these features add no value for the main public. As a result, most people stick with Twitter and Facebook, rather than moving to Google Wave.

    Twitter has generated an immense ecosystem of third-party applications and services, because of their excellent API. But this shouldn’t be a reason for Twitter to stop improving their service. What’s next, Facebook removing their API, because they don’t want third parties to create features that they may have planned for a future release themselves?

    Again, it’s all about adding value. Both on Twitter’s side and the third-party developer’s side. The ‘You both follow’ services created by independent developers should be taken to the next level, by offering more features than Twitter does. From this point of view, Twitter is stimulating innovation among developers.

    Google has created many applications that were either already available, or were under development by other parties. Because of the closed nature of Google applications, it’s way harder to build something based on a Google service than it is for a Twitter service. That is were the real danger is. It’s hard for developers to build upon Google, so the only (inviable) option for them is to compete with Google by creating a stand-alone product.

    I believe we should be thankful to Twitter for allowing thousands, if not millions, of developers to create applications based on their service.

  3. JG Wentworth says

    I believe Twitter is being unfair to its developers. Innovation is the key to growth and ultimately success. jgwentworth

  4. Ankit says

    Abhishek, so you agree that twitter is being unfair to its developers.More than the remuneration, moves like these might lead to disappointment among developers and if they stop innovating, i wonder how much will twitter expand

  5. Abhishek says

    Seems unduly harsh on the developers as they are destroying their business models without any remuneration.

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