First it was LinkedIn, then Instagram lost its friend-finding privileges on Twitter, and now it's Tumblr whose users lost the ability to connect with Twitter friends in “a veritable third-party relationship killing spree by Twitter, which is on a mission to assert more control over its ecosystem.”
Within hours of BuzzFeed’s Matt Buchanan's prediction that Tumblr was a primary target on Twitter’s third-party “hit list,” the option to locate Twitter friends disappeared from Tumblr's site.
Tumblr issued this unhappy statement:
To our dismay, Twitter has restricted our users’ ability to ‘Find Twitter Friends’ on Tumblr. Given our history of embracing their platform, this is especially upsetting. Our syndication feature is responsible for hundreds of millions of tweets, and we eagerly enabled Twitter Cards across 70 million blogs and 30 billion posts as one of Twitter’s first partners. While we’re delighted by the response to our integrations with Facebook and Gmail, we are truly disappointed by Twitter’s decision.
But as Svbtle founder Dustin Curtis commented in Digitaltrends, the repercussions for Twitter are potentially much greater: “Twitter was built on the backs of the very developers it is now blocking.”
When Instagram’s Twitter friend finder was severed last month, Twitter’s terse explanation:
We understand that there’s great value associated with Twitter’s follow graph data, and we can confirm that it is no longer available within Instagram.
The picture is crystal clear: Twitter wants to eliminate any application that creates traffic “off the teat,” notes slashgear.com. “Ending the ability for some services to use the friend finder feature via twitter has to do with new rules on the twitter version 1.1 API.”
As Twitter morphs from a utility to an aspirant media company, controlling its end-to-end brand experience inevitably shrinks partnering opportunities and further distills the already fine line between competitors and partners. But what seems to be most upsetting is the changing of the rules – mid-tweet.
The handwriting on the wall was teased last year when Twitter started edictal warnings to the likes of Tweetbot, Twitterific and Echofon to cease and desist from building those kinds of apps.
On the next round of Twitter’s hit-list: "social reading apps like Flipboard, Prismatic and Zite,” according to Buzzfeed's Buchanan. “But Flipboard, by far the biggest of the bunch — it even signed a deal with the New York Times — does a great many things to annoy Twitter, particularly when taken as a whole.”
Betabeat published its take with this headline: "Twitter Continues on Its Whirlwind Tour of Alienating Everyone” and suggested, “If Twitter’s going through with this, the company might want to consider a new approach: Just rip the Band-Aid off and make everyone livid for two weeks. It’s impossible to sustain that kind of anger on a mass scale.”
A Twitter engineer expressed his opinion that “This Tumblr business just stinks.”
Friend today, foe and gone tomorrow. But there’s a limit to just how much any one brand can fool around with the ecosystem, and Twitter’s current actions may leave it vulnerable when the next microblogging media company emerges from the digital ethers.