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@ONA09: Twitter’s Ev Williams: ‘We Try To Be Respectful Of Developers’

Twitter cofounder Ev Williams knows what the consequences can be when a bigger company adds your features to its own product. That happened to Odeo, his last company, as he told attendees at ONA this morning, when *Apple* adding podcasting features directly to iTunes faster than he anticipated. (Video embedded below.) So how does Twitter take into account the affect its feature integration can have on the developers who are trying to make a living from those features like lists or search? We had a quick escalator chat on the subject (after he spend some time with what I heard someone call the “nerd paparazzi”).

Williams told paidContent: “We definitely respect what the developers are doing and there will be things we build that they’ve built but the goal with everything we build is to also build an API on it so they can do more. Search, for instance. There were multiple companies doing search. We thought search should be built into Twitter so we did that and and we built the API for search so everybody else could do more with it. So that will happen inevitably and it happens with every platform company. We try to be really respectful of what developers have done and only do the things we think are fundamental but there’s always more to do.” (Maybe he’s hoping some of that karma will run off as Facebook and others move on to Twitter’s turf.)

As for the developers who are already out there on the leading edge, “We try to give them a heads up. There’s a good example with Lists (a just-announced twitter-sorting feature being tested). One of the blog posts yesterday covering Lists says this probably means death for this company that was focused on building the same thing. But the truth is we reached out to them beforehand and said, hey, we’re building this and we’re going to do an API for it and they’re excited about their potential now because it actually makes what they’re doing better.”

TweepML and WeFollow are already in the space; one of TweetDeck’s pluses is the way tweeters can be grouped, but, unlike Twitter Lists, they can’t be published outside the app. TweepML’s Marcelo Calbucci explains here (via TechCrunch) why this can both help and hurt third-party developers: “This announcement is a blow to many websites that have implemented listing and grouping for Twitter, but the reality is that most of them will adapt and thrive (and a few will vanish).”

One Response to “@ONA09: Twitter’s Ev Williams: ‘We Try To Be Respectful Of Developers’”

  1. Dev E Loper

    Wind out of your sails:

    We run very popular Twitter client. We just finished and released our Groups feature after a lot of work. It was only out for 3 days and Twitter announced "lists".

    We'll most definitely adapt and thrive, but each new feature added to the site takes the wind out of our sails.

    In interviews, in response to questions to Twitter about Twitter going the way of Friendster, Twitter states its immunity and touts itself as a service/utility rather than a destination application. We all want to see it that way. The question is though… If they are service/utility, then why have a feature-rich web client at all?

    The more features that Twitter releases for its website, the less likely our team is to be inventive. It makes you fear coming up with something ground breaking as the community might like it and Twitter will then implement it.

    Its becoming a cycle:
    1st Search, then ReTweet, then Grouping/Lists. Next thing you know, they will have a full Twitter Business suite and will either put every Business focused site out of business or at least put them in a position of competing with Twitter directly.

    We love Twitter and will continue to develop for it, but with a bit more caution and a bit less innovation.

    Dev E. Loper