The diversity inherent in public design/development was considered the strength of the Web 2.0 movement. In many ways, Twitter has become the behemoth it now is based on that very notion. In an odd turn, Twitter has decided to ask developers to stop making conventional Twitter apps. To put it lightly, there seems to be a lack of historical perspective in this change in opinion. Perhaps the hardest part for myself to swallow is the fact that Twitter’s official client was not the product of an internal design team, but simply a revised version of an acquired third-party application.
Ryan Sarver from Twitter communicates the reasoning behind this move:
“We need to move to a less fragmented world, where every user can experience Twitter in a consistent way. This is already happening organically–the number and market share of consumer client apps that are not owned or operated by Twitter has been shrinking… Developers ask us if they should build client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience. The answer is no.”
Twitter makes it clear in this decision that they consider themselves more adept at providing the best experience for the public. I find framing this decision as championing user experience both problematic and disingenuous. On the contrary, Twitter has not exactly been the public’s best friend lately when it comes to user experience (see #dickbar). Taking a step back and surveying recent events, this seems to be a grab for eyeballs to monetize their content through apps they own. Twitter is now at the point where it simply no longer needs third-party developers to help drive their product. In fact, it may be proving to be a hinderance financially. To me, this makes far more sense than the notion that these decisions are all under the auspices of a better user experience.
At the very least, Twitter is biting the hand that fed them when they were still scrawny and vulnerable. If my speculations are correct, well, then it is another animal all together. Either way, Twitter would be wise not to wield user experience as the argument for this case. Users are smart. Diversity is far more beneficial than detrimental. The good software products have always had the tendency rise to the top—they do not need Twitter, or anyone for that matter, to hold their hand and tell them what product is best for them.