I’ve been following various development mailing lists lately, and I’m seeing a trend of developers starting to bail on Twitter. This is a scary thought, because when the developers bail, so will the users. It all started with a conversation on the Twitter Developers’ mailing list with the subject, “Shame” by a developer named, “nath“, in which he said,
“Well, twitters always down or unusable due to the speed; the api’s
keep breaking and are down just as often; the groups now packed full
of spam which is littering my inbox.
“It’s a real shame to see such a great app crumble and die like this :(“
We own Twitter’s speed a stability; my our metrics, it’s been pretty
solid over the last few days.
We do not, however, own spam prevention for this group. That’s up to
Google, and if it’s a hard problem for them, I’d imagine it’d be a
hard problem for anyone.
I go through and clear out spammy posts, but time they reach my inbox,
they’ve reached everyone else’s as well. There’s just not much I can
do about it. Please make use of Google’s “report as spam” features.
Sorry, but I have to agree with the original author, it is a shame
that the service and the API are so unreliable. The potential for the
services that could be built on an API like the one offered by twitter
are endless. They really are.
Statements like this:
> my our metrics, it’s been pretty solid over the last few days.
don’t do much to boost my confidence. When you make an API available,
you are essentially saying to the world, “here’s our service, come and
build something great on top of it.” You can’t build anything of any
real value or widespread use on something that “has been *pretty
solid* over the last couple days (emphasis mine) .” You just can’t.
You need something that is rock solid all the time.
I’m not trying to start a flame war or bash twitter at all. Like I
said, I think it is a shame because the potential is so great. The
idea is great, the acceptance is great, the use is great, the
possibilities are awesome. But they just can’t be fulfilled given the
reliability of the service as it is today; try to build something on
top of the API that will see wide-spread use and you’ll find that when
you push the gas, the wheels fall off the car… at least that’s been
my experience. It’s been *extremely* frustrating and disappointing.
After following a few threads on the Perl development library for Twitter, Net::Twitter, I recently found out that Net::Twitter’s original maintainer too has jumped ship. He has handed it over to a new maintainer, but developments like this are not a good sign for Twitter! It is very clear that frustration amongst Twitter developers has hit a maximum level and I fully expect to see this only increase in the short term.
At the same time, developers like Kee Hinckley are giving advice to Twitter, and they are graciously accepting it seems. Some great tips are being given on ways to enhance the API, and I even suggested they do a public bug tracker which they seemed to like. Twitter clearly doesn’t seem to have enough expertise in-house, although they do keep saying they are hiring. Their jobs page doesn’t seem to have any upper-management positions though which I think is really what they need right now.
I’m very worried for Twitter. As more developers jump ship and work on other platforms such as Plurk and FriendFeed (which really isn’t a direct competitor to Twitter), this great tool is going to be left in the dust with no new development and large networks of people moving elsewhere. Twitter’s largest traffic comes from the API itself, and as that traffic dies down, so will Twitter. Imagine, for instance, if Seesmic were to stop development on Twhirl due to the costs associated with keeping up with API flaws? That would be quite a chunk of Twitter’s users being forced over to the other Twhirl clients, FriendFeed and Seesmic itself – it’s such an easy transition were Twitter support to be dropped! What happens when Twhirl begins supporting Plurk?
Twitter needs to do something, and they need to do it fast. I agree they need to get their infrastructure in place, but before even doing that they really need to put every hack possible in place to keep the API up, keep it working, and work with the developers to ensure they are staying happy. A large revolution is about to take place, and I’m afraid it won’t be pretty.
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