The kerfuffle between Twitter and its third party developers has been discussed, analyzed and debated ad nauseum over the past week. But aside from jokes of awkwardness, there has been surprisingly little talk about what it means for Chirp. What do third party developers want from the conference in light of recent events? What’s a win for Twitter?
Outside developers must come away with an understanding of the brutal expectations Twitter faces as a company valued at over a billion dollars. Unlike most of the people building Twitter tools, Twitter is not a small business or a weekend hack project; it is an enterprise that is expected to justify the enormous investments it has received. That will require it to act like a business in ways it has chosen not to act in the past. Tweetie will not be the last acquisition, and the iPhone will not be the last internally supported platform. Twitter needs to make this absolutely clear to developers so that they understand the (arguably new) stakes and can choose their risks accordingly.
Twitter needs to walk away with an understanding of what it must do to keep its developer community happy and thriving. I imagine that even the most cynical, closed view held within Twitter would concede that the company needs its outside developers, who add tremendous value by extending Twitter’s features and providing new ideas and innovations.
What I don’t expect – or want – is to see the debate on corporate policy that we have witnessed over the last week. Love it or hate it, that is for Twitter to decide. What I want to see is a mutual recognition of self-interest and codependence between Twitter and its third party developers, and a better understanding of what both sides need to do to make the most of that relationship.