It's safe to bet against anything "meta."— Evan Williams (@ev) June 22, 2011
I have to admit I was a little surprised to see Twitter re-iterate what Ryan Sarver had previously stated over a year ago. I thought everyone understood that Twitter was going to be pushing back on apps that didn’t offer unique experiences than the timeline on Twitter.com.
Essentially Twitter let developers know on Friday that they were going to be enforcing the previously stated guidance that 3rd party developers and consumers should not be making apps that essentially duplicate Twitter’s timeline stream. LinkedIn immediately complied and removed the inclusion of tweets into the LinkedIn update stream. (Which, in my opinion, actually made that stream more useful.)
Dalton Caldwell wrote a piece called “What Twitter Could Have Been” that reveals a bit about the company I didn’t know. Apparently there was a split between those who wanted to make Twitter more of a protocol and those who wanted to seize the opportunity to make it a platform for serving ads.
After reading Dalton’s piece I was reminded of another company that chose protocol over ad platform. Though “chose” is probably the wrong word. AOL pretty much stumbled around while their instant messaging service became one of several competing chat protocols. It seemed like one day all my friends were on ICQ and the next we had all migrated to AIM. But soon after it didn’t really matter what protocol you were using, everyone ran multi-protocol chat apps and we could network hop between conversations in a single interface.
AIM did make some attempts to make money from the service. They threw banner ads into the official app. I think they even charged for a version of their client. They flirted with an API but never really seemed to commit. Only until it was well over did they make an attempt at what people had been wanting all along with their new AIM app released last year—but they killed that too.
In the end AIM is just another protocol for chatting with friends. Instant messaging is my absolute favorite way to keep up with people, but I couldn’t tell you if I am talking over AOL’s wires or Google’s. The core ability to time-shift conversations is unlike any other means of communication for me. Instant messaging feels like it hit a false dead-end, where it can’t be monetized so people aren’t putting effort into innovating.
I am happy to see Twitter doesn’t want to go that route.