While Israeli forces targeted Gaza with a surgical strike that later spun out of control, a parallel war was being fought on Twitter. Handles on the social network purportedly belonging to the Israeli Defence Force and Hamas’s paramilitary wing, Al Qassam, launched a “Twitter war” of bite-sized rhetoric.
This was after what should be the first instance of national armed forces announcing an operation over a social network. This is yet further proof of Twitter’s pre-eminence as a communication platform. In many ways it represents the kind of impartial, democratic, cheap yet scalable media tool that the Internet has always promised.
Indeed, in many ways, Twitter has begun to function as a protocol rather than as a product. Yet there are signs that the people who run Twitter are prepared to compromise the network’s usability for the sake of business.
In August, Twitter told developers that it was putting a cap on how many requests and users could be processed by third-party clients. So, if you were to make a new software client for Twitter right now, the new policy only allows you to enrol up to 100,000 users. And there were further caps on how many times these clients could pull data from Twitter’s servers.
Essentially, Twitter is trying to discourage third-party developers from replicating it’s suite of official websites and apps. The idea, presumably, is to eventually restrict users to Twitter-owned clients which makes it easier to push advertising and other revenue-generating products.
Recently, developers of the Tweetro client for Windows 8 computers had to withdraw the product after it hit the 100,000 user mark. Twitter has refused to extend the limit. This is even though there is no official Twitter client for the Windows 8 platform yet.
The policy makes business sense. But the problem for users is that most of Twitter’s official clients are poor and hardly stand up to third-party competition. Also, by giving developers limited incentive to work on the platform, Twitter is stifling innovation.
Nobody wants Twitter to go broke in the process of running this vital digital platform. But the company needs to stop acting like the very bullies that the network has a reputation for helping topple.
Is Twitter’s network usability being compromised for the sake of business?