So why are smart folks like Dalton writing things like this? Why is Nova Spivack talking about a Twitter API problem? Because, in addition to some worthwhile technical requests, they’re lamenting that Twitter isn’t just for geeks anymore. This isn’t some nefarious plan by the tyrannical cabal that controls Twitter to create a Horrible Commercialized Network For Kardashians; It’s a result of the fact that so many normal people showed up to use the service.
Geeks are lamenting that they don’t dominate and control this network, and expressing it in the only way we know how: Through technological triumphalism. If the culture of a giant network doesn’t resemble the culture we prefer, then it must be a problem that can be solved by making the network more technically complicated.
Twitter, like so much technological change before it, launched with the promise, sometimes explicit and sometimes implied, of being, well, different. It was and, in many ways, still is. A great many of us thought they meant it when they said they wanted to change the world, though, and the last few years’ transition from being the voice of everyone to yet another megaphone for the already overexposed is really grating.
It’s impossible to know what could have been, whether Twitter would have withered on the vine by focusing on being the heartbeat instead of retweeting Starbucks promotions. That certainly doesn’t make us wrong for wanting it to have been truly different.
One last note on Anil’s post: the last third is so wrong-headed and cheap I almost can’t believe he wrote it. Anil is a thinker and writer I respect a lot and his dumb, straw-man argument about developer community and ecosystem diversity is hard to even parse, let alone accept. I hope he’ll rethink that and apologize to Paul Haddad.
UPDATE: Andre Torrez, who is wicked smart, compares Twitter to AIM and says he’s glad Twitter didn’t choose to be just another protocol.