Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chirp, Tweet, Whistle, FAIL

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase

After the ego stroking and intense coverage of Twitter this last week, which saw Ashton Kutcher become the first user to break a million followers; Oprah Winfrey, the icon introduce herself to the the microblogging community and the huge influx of new users there is still widespread criticism of the service.

Positive and negative press coverage seem to go hand in hand with Twitter, with the mainstream breakthrough helped by the service becoming increasingly popular with celebrities, breaking news before other channels, monthly growth rates increasing and you would believe Twitter has made the transition. Then also in the news you also have the StalkDaily and Mikeyy attacks, a security issue within the OAuth protocol and Twitter consistently removing features, making changes without warning developers.

Jesse Stay states that his SocialToo application may be one of the hardest hit by the recent changes. He feels that Twitter should introduce a firm Terms of Service and notify developers in advance before implementing changes -
If I knew what I could or couldn’t do on Twitter I could avoid it in the first place. Unfortunately Twitter hasn’t defined that and it’s pretty darn confusing, not to mention extremely risky, to write apps for the Twitter platform right now. With Facebook, on the other hand, I’m required to agree to a very specific agreement, and they’re very clear when they’re going to change any of the terms, giving developers plenty of warning. It’s well written out and well defined. It’s a platform with little risk and high reward for businesses because they give developers time to work with any changes they make to it. [Source]
Twitter state that limiting the number of accounts that a single person can follow in a day to 1000 is to discourage spam. Although by restricting functionality they are impacting the services provided by the developers -
While there are technical reasons behind having some limit on following activites, this per-day limit exists to discourage spamminess. Also, it is unlikely that anyone can actually read tweets from thousands of accounts which makes the mass following activity disingenuous. [Source]
Twitter acknowledged the developers when addressing the OAuth vulnerability in that they needed to move quickly and responsibly -
It's important to us that we support the ecosystem and developers that have grown around Twitter. Communication is a big part of this support but so is moving quickly and responsibly when security is involved. As we move further away from beta testing, Twitter's OAuth support will grow more dependable and many of us will be able to take advantage of applications that incorporate the protocol. [Source]
Although Twitter are listening I agree with Jesse Stay that there needs to be a firm Terms of Service in place for everyone involved. Thankfully I'm not affected by the issue surrounding followers but I do enjoy the interaction through Twitter and without the developers it wouldn't be the same experience. Twitter although popular does appear to be constantly plagued by growth problems so being a Friendfeed user I found this blog post from Rob Nelson to be an accurate assumption!
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