It’s a fact of life, platforms inevitably close up loopholes that developers were exploiting to make money from without paying the piper. If you look back at Facebook, it happened over the course of a few years. Here are just a few of the instances:
- Application requests de-prioritized (the initial source of virality)
- Facebook profile tabs removed (November 2010)
- App notifications eliminated completely (February 2010)
- Facebook requires all games to implement Credits (resulting in a 30% tax, January 2011)
- Google ads banned from the platform (March 2011)
- User feedback results in many apps being shut down (June 2011) While Facebook made adjustments in an effort to appease developers, many were forced off the platform over the years. Granted, many of these developers probably should have seen it coming. Can you really make a fortune off someone else without expecting to be taxed? Idealist developers hoped so with Facebook, and many more hoped that Twitter would also be an exception to the rule.
Yet yesterday’s announcement from Twitter made it clear that the company would not be an exception to the rule. No, all developers must deal with the company’s relatively arbitrary restrictions. If you were building a data analysis company that was working around Twitter’s search API limitations, you’re going to have to start paying (someone like DataSift or Gnip, who’s paying Twitter for full-stream access).
If you’re building tools for users, you’ll have an increase in API requests, but obviously it narrows the area in which developers should operate. Yes, the Platform will live on, but not without the help of those developers who filled the gaps in Twitter’s functionality over the years. Will users care? Probably not too much. Developers on the other hand may have somewhat of a sour taste once everything is said and done.
It’s these exact type of behavior which drive some developers to try and fight back. Dalton Caldwell’s new site is just one example. Ultimately for most, the battle will result in failure (such is the reality of entrepreneurship). Yet it’s this dynamic, between developers and platform owners, that continues to remind us that the power is ultimately in the hands of the platform owner.