Keep Your Ecosystem Open
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(NOTE: PLEASE SHARE THIS PETITION ASAP TO YOUR FOLLOWERS and use the hashtag #OccupyTwitter)
Twitter, what kind of bird are you becoming? Are you still that cute little bird that everyone loved, or are you becoming a scary bird of prey? We need you to clarify this ASAP.
We, the undersigned, urge you, Twitter, not to betray the trust and goodwill of your ecosystem of millions of developers and users. And we urge you to clarify your intentions for your APIs and the huge ecosystem of third-party apps and services that rely on these APIs to connect to Twitter, right away.
Specifically, we ask you to:
1. Uphold your promise of being an open platform.
Support the open Web. Keep your developer APIs open, as you promised from the beginning.
Support and leverage the ecosystem of third-party apps and services that connect to Twitter through these APIs.
Please consider revising your proposed API changes to be more reasonable and practical. We recommend calling a meeting of leading third-party app developers to discuss a plan that all parties could live with.
2. Clarify your intentions for your developer community ASAP.
Your recent blog posts have only increased confusion. Give us clarity. Do it now. Don't allow this situation of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) to continue any longer.
And in the future please do not start vague and scary rumors about your APIs, and do not allow such rumors to fester for weeks without official comment or reassurance. Such conduct harms developers and businesses, customers and investors in your ecosystem. This lack of clarity is causing real economic damage to thousands of companies and developers.
3. Respect and appreciate the enormous ecosystem around your company and product.
Treat your developers with TLC. Leverage the power of your network, instead of viewing it as a threat.
You will make more money by leveraging network effects than by blocking them. If, to pay for keeping your APIs open, you want to pump ads through the free APIs, or require Tweets to be displayed in a certain way, that's fine - everyone can adapt to that. Read this proposal for one example of how to do that.
4. Allow your users to choose how they access the Twitter network.
Millions of people access Twitter through third-party apps and services that they really love.
Don't kill all that innovation and good-will, and don't deprive your users of choice. Instead, view this diversity as a good problem to have. Monetize it if you need to, but don't try to stop it. You will just be killing off Twitter in the end. The ecosystem IS Twitter. Twitter is a network, not simply a Web site.
We urge you, Twitter, to take the right path. Don't Be Evil. Be Open. And if necessary, monetize the APIs with ads and the option to pay to not get the ads. But don't shut them off, and don't mutate the terms such that they are no longer open.
WHAT ARE THE TWITTER APIs?
The Twitter APIs enable applications and services to post data to Twitter, and get data from Twitter.
For example, they are used by third-party Twitter clients, mobile Twitter apps, Twitter plugins and widgets, enterprise social media management tools, search engines, content publishing sites, and many other third-party uses of Twitter.
These APIs are the only way to get data in and out of Twitter, and nearly a million developers use them every day. They are used indirectly by tens of millions of people every day as they use third-party apps built on them.
The Twitter developer terms start by stating that Twitter is open: "Twitter maintains an open platform" (https://dev.twitter.com/terms/api-terms ).
Twitter's growth has been largely due to third-party developers and apps that were built on Twitter's promise of "open" APIs. These apps are what spread Twitter and what created the rich tapestry of innovation and network effects that have helped the company achieve prominence so quickly.
Nearly a million developers took Twitter at their word, and poured their hearts, time, money and careers into building apps on this supposedly "open" platform's APIs. These include many popular apps that are widely used and loved by tens of millions of consumers, professionals, startups and large companies alike.
Even Twitter's top employees and engineers use these third-party apps to post to Twitter, instead of Twitter's own apps (there is much evidence of this if you look at posts by Twitter employees and what apps they were posted from).
If Twitter closes these APIs or restricts them, all of these third-party apps and all of the users who use them are at risk.
WHAT IS CAUSING ALL THE CONCERN?
Recently, Twitter began to generate rumors (mainly via a post on their official developer weblog) that they will be clamping down on their APIs, or perhaps shutting them altogether.
This is creating an atmosphere of fear, uncertainty, doubt, and anger in the technology industry and particularly amongst those who use these APIs or apps that rely on them.
The media has taken these rumors and amplified them to panic levels. Unfortunately, Twitter has so far refused to comment or reassure anyone. But allowing these rumors to amplify is causing even more damage.
Allowing this FUD to fester and amplify in the media for weeks, without any reassurance or clarification of intent by Twitter, sends a terrible signal that the rumors might actually be true.
These rumors are harmful and are causing real economic damage to companies that currently work around these APIs. For example, investors are afraid to invest and customers are afraid to go forward, on anything that touches the Twitter APIs. Companies, products and jobs are at risk.
Why has Twitter not clarified this situation with a statement that they still intend to be "open" and that their developers should not worry? Is it because the rumors are true, or is it that Twitter isn't sure yet, or that they just don't care? None of these conclusions are good.
WHY DOES THIS MATTER?
What is at stake here? Why does this matter?
This is an issue that affects everyone who uses Twitter, not just technology geeks.
If Twitter shuts down their public API's to prevent 3rd party apps from accessing Twitter, or restricts these APIs, there will be many ripple effects that will dramatically change Twitter and how everyone uses it.
1. There are literally tens of millions of people and thousands of businesses using 3rd party apps that require access to these APIs. All these users -- many of whom paid for third-party apps -- would now have no choice and will have also lost their money in many cases.
2. There are thousands of business that provide products and services based around Twitter's "open" APIs -- and at least tens of thousands of jobs at stake. Thousands of businesses have been built around the Twitter APIs -- or built on them -- and they employ a lot of people. If Twitter shuts off these APIs all those businesses and jobs could be harmed or at risk.
3. If Twitter shuts down their APIs, it will concentrate total control over the flow of information in the Twitter network into the hands of a few people who run Twitter. That is risky and puts Twitter into a position of potentially having a chokehold on the flow of ideas around the world. Nobody should have that much control over the world's messages. For example, imagine if one company controlled all email communication. It's just too dangerous. The network should be open and Twitter's role should be to protect it's freedom, not restrict it.
4. Finally, Twitter promised to be an "open platform" - and it was this promise that led nearly a million developers and around 100 million people to connect with Twitter and make it huge.
It would be quite a betrayal of trust for Twitter to turn the tables, this late in the game, now that they are big enough not to need help from anyone. And it would be a bad move for Twitter too - because in fact, without this enormous open ecosystem, Twitter could easily become irrelevant and probably will.
The ecosystem around Twitter will move elsewhere (for example to another competing network or a new one). It will have to. Because the Internet wants to be free.
THERE IS A BETTER WAY FORWARD FOR TWITTER
One thing is certain: If Twitter does clamp down on it's APIs it will be shooting itself in the foot, for short-term gain. And this short-term gain will not be worth it.
The ecosystem is what makes Twitter powerful and special, and in fact could be leveraged into an incredible revenue source.
There is in fact a better option for Twitter. An option that does not require shutting the APIs, or charging users. It would turn Twitter into a huge ad network overnight and make a ton of money. It's probably the best way for Twitter to prosper in fact. Read more here.
While we hope this doesn't happen, if Twitter turns against developers and companies that have helped build Twitter for so many years, that will result in long-term backlash and an erosion of good-will that will damage Twitter's brand and reputation for years to come.
It will also open Twitter up to major competition from other players who will inevitably fill the gap with more open APIs.
This could be Twitter's "MySpace Moment" ... or it could be an opportunity for Twitter to stand up for its core and original principles and build an ecosystem, and an entire economy, not just one company.
In the end, the ecosystem play is bigger and will result in more revenue and network effects to Twitter than it can ever achieve on its own.
We urge Twitter to be more transparent, and to the recognize the value of this ecosystem. And most importantly, we need clarification ASAP from Twitter on these issues.
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