As expected, Twitter on Thursday released new restrictions on how third-party apps and services can make use of the network—including caps on how much data they can access and strict requirements on how tweets must be displayed. Depending on whom you listen to, this is either a totally logical and even welcome move by a growing corporation or a heinous betrayal of everything the company used to stand for and a sign it has completely lost its way. More than one observer has compared the reaction from developers with the response that die-hard music fans have when their favorite band signs a big record deal or sells out to an advertiser, and that probably sums up a lot of the angst pretty well.
Beneath all the sound and fury from developers, however, is a kernel of truth that Twitter would do well to consider: Namely, that one of the reasons why external apps and services have been—and continue to be—such an important part of the company’s growth and success is that many of its own products are frequently underwhelming at best. If the point of the new API changes is to control more of the ecosystem and the Twitter experience, the company had better make sure that experience is as good as it can possibly be, or it risks losing the very user base it is hoping to monetize, as others have in the past.