The Key To Developing on Twitter's Platform Is Being Complementary

By Trevor Gilbert , written on August 6, 2012

From The News Desk

There has been quite a bit of consternation on the part of developers over Twitter’s future in the past month or so. The fault lies with Twitter, because of communication issues, but also with followers of the company, who don’t necessarily understand where the company is headed.

The best outlook for how the company will approach its business model moving forward comes from Mike Isaac’s article on the future of Twitter:

"Twitter’s goal [is] a rich, consistent Twitter experience for every user. When the hammer drops and Twitter changes its guidelines, those apps that can’t deliver this consistency will no longer be able to integrate with Twitter."

This prediction, which makes sense for the company, means a couple of things. The first is that services and applications that mooch off of Twitter -- like third-party clients -- will be getting the axe from Twitter at some point in the future. The second is that if the company or service augments Twitter’s business model and doesn’t compete with the company, chances are that it will be fine.

Backing this up, I spoke with Gnip COO Chris Moody earlier this week. Gnip was the first company to be given access to Twitter’s firehose of data in 2008 (back when there were only six tweets sent out per minute), and has been in Twitter’s good graces ever since. According to Moody, the relationship between the two companies is still going strong, with the current worries affecting Twitter platform developers not reaching the company.

This is because of what Gnip does. The company takes the full, real-time stream of data from Twitter and other social media platforms and then filters, organizes, and repackages it for customers. For example, if you are a Fortune 500 company that wants to know how people are reacting to your latest product announcement, Gnip can analyze the bulk of the social media world to come up with an answer.

Because Gnip's business model is so different from the rest of Twitter's vision, the company is on rock-solid grounding. Gnip sells access to Twitter to major billion-dollar companies. Twitter, on the other hand, sells context- and follower-based advertisements. Gnip is labor-intensive, with much of the business being done on a case-by case basis; Twitter's advertising model is largely automated. Because of the disparity between the business models and the customer focus, there is little chance that Twitter will be directly competing with them moving forward.

This is good news for the company, sure. But more importantly, it is good news for a particular set of Twitter developers: the group of developers and companies that are complement Twitter's value proposition for advertisers. This includes Gnip, and companies similar to it like including DataSift.

What this does for the rest of ecosystem is provide a path forward if developers want to continue to work on top of Twitter's platform. From every angle, the consensus appears to be that developers shouldn’t compete with the company, shouldn’t hurt its advertisers, and shouldn't abuse the relationship by taking for free while giving little back to the company.

Basically, we should look at Twitter through the lens of the Golden Rule: treat it nicely, and be treated nicely in return.