Mike Isaac, trying to clear up Twitter’s opaque attempt at shedding more light on its upcoming platform policy changes:
But amid the confusion of the past month, nearly all have overlooked the section of [Twitter VP of Product Michael] Sippey’s post which holds the key to Twitter’s future: Cards. Twitter’s new Cards technology allows third-party developers to create richer, more compelling — and, above all, visually consistent — content inside of Twitter itself.
Therein lies Twitter’s goal: A rich, consistent Twitter experience for every user. When the hammer finally drops and Twitter finally changes its guidelines, those apps which can’t deliver this consistency will no longer be able to integrate with Twitter.
But nowhere in Isaac’s 1,800+ words, nor in Sippey’s original 400-word post, is an explanation of why this new “Cards” initiative necessitates locking out and screwing over the third-party clients that contributed so much to Twitter’s early proliferation and current success.
Twitter could create that consistent experience, even across third-parties, by adjusting its APIs and laying down a new set of guidelines to ensure all apps display its Cards, promoted ads, and other required content. If apps get caught ignoring any of these rules, they could simply get shut out, much like Twitter shut off the spigot for Instagram and LinkedIn.
Sure, users of apps like Tweetbot and Flipboard might not be thrilled about having to see ads, but they’ll far less thrilled when they get shut out completely. And if recent estimates on the use of third-party Twitter clients are even in the ballpark, we’re only talking about roughly 20 percent of Twitter’s users. Is all this grief really worth that trouble? Consistency doesn’t mean totalitarianism.
Another way Twitter could keep the third-party client spigot open is to simply charge a minimal fee for it. Plenty of users are clearly willing to spend a little money to get the Twitter experience they prefer—we could finally get the option of the “Twitter Pro” accounts people have wanted since day one, and Twitter could open up a second revenue stream that may not even require jamming ads down our throats.
Twitter can get the consistency it wants and the revenue it needs by changing the direction of its platform, but there is more than one way to adjust a ship’s course. There’s still time to try less turbulent tactics.