On this week’s Core Intuition, Daniel and I discuss celebrities in tech and the often slow progress on our own products.
Small Empires is back for season 2. The first episode profiles Atlanta-based startup Partpic. Great show.
Microsoft Band is what I thought the Apple Watch was going to be. More focused, good battery, cross platform, $199.
The story of Twitpic shutting down has a better ending now:
“We weren’t able to find a way to keep Twitpic independent. However, I’m happy to announce that we have reached an agreement with Twitter to give them the Twitpic domain and photo archive, thus keeping the photos and links alive for the time being.”
This is much better than all those photos becoming broken links, but it’s still a sad statement on the Twitter ecosystem. Twitter threatened Twitpic, then Twitpic decided to shutdown, and in the end Twitter gets all the Twitpic assets anyway for cheap or no money at all. It’s a bizarre end to what only a couple years ago was a $3 million business.
Twitter is a big company with a lot of moving pieces. It shouldn’t surprise me that one half of Twitter is ready to sic the lawyers on Twitpic while another half wants to do the right thing for Twitpic’s customer base. Still, a bittersweet closing chapter on one of the first great third-party developers.
I took my daughters to see Taylor Swift last year and we had a great time. I own a couple of her albums myself and was curious about the new “1989” and how very different it seemed. From the foreword:
“For the last few years, I’ve woken up every day not wanting, but needing to write a new style of music. I needed to change the way I told my stories and the way they sounded. I listened to a lot of music from the decade in which I was born and I listened to my intuition that it was a good thing to follow this gut feeling.”
I like bands who aren’t afraid to reinvent themselves because it means they’re both pushing forward and will also often return to their roots with something stronger. So I pre-ordered Taylor Swift’s latest and I’m really enjoying several of the tracks. It’s good for all of us to occasionally get out of our comfort zone and create something new.
Jason Snell writes about some of the inconsistencies in Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite, such as how only a few of Apple’s own apps use the new combined title bar / toolbar style:
“It makes me wonder if Apple was initially enthusiastic about this approach, then realized it wasn’t applicable to many situations, and rather than abandoning it just decided to live with the inconsistency. There’s certainly no clear, this-is-the-future signal.”
I don’t hate the new style, but that does seem like the fundamental problem with it: it can’t possibly be used for all apps, especially those with lots of toolbar buttons. I considered it for the next version of Clipstart, but it’s not really a compelling enough change to risk breaking things that already work well.
Mat Honan has a long article covering the Twitter Flight announcements. On understanding why Twitter acquired Crashlytics and MoPub:
“Now, those acquisitions suddenly seem crucial. They form the backbone of Fabric—along with a new sign-on system called Digits (launching in 218 countries and 28 languages today). While tweets will remain Twitter’s foundation, this is a real strategy shift that’s in many ways similar to Google’s growth out of search.”
It’s interesting that one half of Twitter has so famously stepped on developers, but a new part of Twitter is emerging around Fabric with the opposite goal: make our life as developers easier so that we bundle the suite of Twitter frameworks into every app we build. This split in the company has allowed me to accept Crashlytics as a long-term sponsor of Core Intuition even as I criticize the “tweets” platform side of Twitter. They’ve done great work with Crashlytics and I happily use it in both Tweet Library and Sunlit.
Also this week, Twitter replaced their “Rules of the Road” with a simplified Developer Policy. I can’t tell if this is an improvement or not yet. It still has the 100,000 user token limit, among other restrictions. (As I write this I’m listening to ATP episode 88, which includes more great discussion about this topic.)
Digits is the surprise of the conference to me. It was impossible for a small company to do SMS verification on this scale before. I think it’s a new class of service with only CloudKit’s user accounts as possible direct competition, and even that only on iOS. Digits is going to be big.
“The old web where I feel like more people saw the web as what I was talking about: as a unique and amazing invention in human history, a thing that can bring the 6 billion voices out into the open, to tell their stories and say what they’re going to say. That this thing is really something special, and it shouldn’t just be treated as a way for monetizing eyeballs and figuring out great new advances in interstitial ads. [...] We can’t lose sight of the opportunity this is. And if the story really is that the web exploded in the mid 90s and became a wonderful thing, and then stopped being that wonderful thing a little more than 20 years later… Then I couldn’t even bear that heartbreak.”
Hope you all enjoy the episode. It was great to have Brent on the show.
NSDrinking is tonight, 8pm at The Ginger Man. Schedule will probably shift a little for the holidays the rest of the year. Hope to see y’all there!
“Twitter started out as a developer-friendly company, then they became a developer-hostile company, and now they’re trying to be a developer-friendly company again. If I had to pick a company to have absolute power over something very important, Twitter wouldn’t be very high on the list.”
Dave Winer responds that for now, we’ll be okay trusting Twitter:
“Twitter is not going to screw us in the short term. They need us as much as we need them. Independent developers are where wholly new ideas come from. You can’t hire people to do that to work inside companies.”
The unique tragedy with Twitter’s changing attitude toward developers is that so many of Twitter’s early innovations did come from third-party developers. The new leadership displayed an incredible disrespect for the value developers added to both the ecosystem and core platform.
Unfortunately in the “short term” it’s still happening. Not 4 years ago, not 2 years ago — just 1 month ago, TwitPic announced they are shutting down after a legal threat from Twitter. It’s a loss for the web, leaving millions of broken image links in old tweets. This latest third-party developer casualty from Twitter’s policies comes practically on the eve of their new developer conference.
I agree with Dave’s larger points, though, on mirroring content to your own blog in addition to Twitter and Facebook. His Radio3 is a step forward for RSS and the open web while still embracing social networks. We need more tools like it.
2 years ago I chose to stop tweeting from my personal Twitter account as a minor protest. I don’t expect everyone else to take such an extreme stance. We can agree on open formats and the power of microblogging while disagreeing on how to interact with Twitter.
(Skeptics say that leaving Twitter is a pointless gesture, like a pebble thrown into a river. The timeline flows on and the outrage is washed away as if it didn’t happen. If leaving doesn’t make an impact, why bother? But it does matter. It matters not for the change it creates directly for others, but for how it changed me. In the same way that writing an essay will solidify your thoughts on a subject, posting that last tweet has given me a new clarity from which to judge whether my own products are on the right track, living up to my ideals.)
Back to the present. On the flight up to Çingleton and back, I finally got around to reading the book Hatching Twitter. Since I was on Twitter near the beginning, I remember many events covered in the book: the launch at SXSW, the CEO shuffling, the names of early engineers who I’ve crossed paths with. I love how the book blends together things that I know are real with other details that must be more contrived or exaggerated, creating an engaging read that would seem to border on historical fiction if we didn’t know that it was basically all true.
Hatching Twitter captures the power struggles inside Twitter and fills a book with them. And that’s really the foundation for Marco’s post: based on Twitter’s history, we probably haven’t seen the last leadership change at the company. Twitter might have a strong future but it surely has an uncertain one.
My next product is about microblogging, and it has to launch in the real world where Twitter dominates. But I view that as a reality, not a feature requirement. I think I’ll be happier as a developer, and my app will actually be more compelling, if I design and build it for a world without Twitter.