Sunday, September 19, 2010

Why is @twitter monopolizing URL-shortening? how will this affect us?

I received the following notice by email from Twitter. As I understand it, they're intending to monopolize all URL-shortening used on Twitter by the end of the year.

I have 3 questions. Question number 2 is rhetorical.

1. Am I reading this right?

2. Why are they really doing this?

3. How will it affect us to have no choice on URL-shortening?
Update 2: URL wrapping

In the coming weeks, we will be expanding the roll-out of our link wrapping service, which wraps links in Tweets with a new, simplified link. Wrapped links are displayed in a way that is easier to read, with the actual domain and part of the URL showing, so that you know what you are clicking on. When you click on a wrapped link, your request will pass through the Twitter service to check if the destination site is known to contain malware, and we then will forward you on to the destination URL. All of that should happen in an instant.

You will start seeing these links on certain accounts that have opted-in to the service; we expect to roll this out to all users by the end of the year. When this happens, all links shared on or third-party apps will be wrapped with a URL.

What does this mean for me?

* A really long link such as might be wrapped as for display on SMS, but it could be displayed to web or application users as or as the whole URL or page title.
* You will start seeing links in a way that removes the obscurity of shortened links and lets you know where each link will take you.
* When you click on these links from or a Twitter application, Twitter will log that click. We hope to use this data to provide better and more relevant content to you over time.

Thanks for reading this important update. Come and check what's new at

The Twitter Team
A lack of competition always hurts consumers. If we're stuck with Twitter's url-shortening, it seems to me, this can only hurt us.

I wonder if it's legal for Twitter to condition our use of Twitter on our use of its URL-shortening service.

Sounds like an unlawful tie-in, similar to Microsoft's initial attempt to force Windows users to use only Internet Explorer.

It's an attempt by Twitter to leverage its strong position in one market -- a preeminent position in socially interactive microblogging -- into a monopoly position in what is presently a wildly competitive market in which it has no presence at all -- URL shortening.

(Short URL for this post:

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Why we should use independent apps, rather than rely on Twitter's

According to this interesting article on, which was pointed out to me by my friend @JustSweetAngel, Twitter is now trying to emulate or acquire the interfaces and applications made by independent developers, and then use them as "official" Twitter applications.

Users would be well advised to steer clear of Twitter's Twitter-only apps and interfaces, for several reasons.

Reason #1: Better to use applications that can support other social media networks

Assuming Twitter could, e.g., do as good a job as Tweetdeck or Seesmic in devising (or ripping off) a user interface (an assumption which is not free from doubt), it would no doubt be an application which supports Twitter only.

Right now, if you are using Tweetdeck, it supports, in addition to Twitter : Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Buzz, Foursquare, and (unofficially) StatusNet (formerly, and probably can be configured to support others as well.

Seesmic, too, supports a number of social networks, including the ones mentioned above, plus cadmus, empire avenue, klout, ning, ping, and socialcast.*

No doubt Seesmic, Tweetdeck, and all the others, will be adding support for an almost infinite array of additional social networks, such as the ones mentioned above plus many others such as FriendFeed, Plaxo, Delicious, Blogger, Tumblr, Jaiko, Bebo, Flickr, Typepad, and on and on and on. See, e.g. "TweetDeck Android app will be more than just Twitter"

The trend in social media is clearly to (a) participate in more than one social media site, and (b) to use interfaces and apps which unite -- rather than divide -- your various social media accounts. And new social media networks are being started daily. To tie onesself into an interface or other app which supports only Twitter would be unwise.

Reason #2: Better to use applications that are designed for the user's benefit rather than Twitter's

A second good reason not to use Twitter's apps is Twitter's conflict of interest: Twitter's primary goal is to promote itself, not to provide you with the best software. You should stick with software that was designed to assist you, not software that was designed to force you to help Twitter in its monetization strategy.

For example, in an effort to promote monetization, Twitter has declared war against the traditional retweet, and done whatever it can to promote its "rubber stamp" pseudo-retweet button. After Twitter bought Tweetie, and designated Tweetie 3.0 as the official "Twitter for iPhone", it did away with traditional retweets in Tweetie.

So now, unlike other iPhone apps, which give you a choice, and which can be configured to use traditional retweets only, Twitter for iPhone gives you no choice at all: you must use the fake, or rubber stamp, retweet, or none at all.

You can bet that every other "official" Twitter application will be guided by a similar philosophy: generating dollars for Twitter's paying clients.

So another reason not to rely on Twitter apps is that they are going to be designed not for the convenience of us -- the people -- but for the convenience of Twitter's commercial and celebrity clients.

Stick with applications that are designed for your benefit, not someone else's.

Reason #3: Competition

As you know, consumers benefit from competition. If you have multi-network applications, then, if one network starts screwing you, you can easily "walk", without feeling any pain.

If you want to help Twitter build a monopoly so that you're stuck with them, then by all means use Twitter's "official" applications.

But if you want a choice of social networks, and want to be able to easily switch from one to the other, stay far away from such "official" applications.

Reason #4: Safety

Yet another reason came to mind to me on September 21, 2010, when this hacking incident occurred: "Twitter Mouseover Security Flaw Affecting Thousands of Users [WARNING]". People using twitter directly were affected. Those using independent apps were not.

Reason #5: Being current

Twitter is usually about 3 years or more behind its users and the independent app makers. Each time it announces a "new" feature, it's something it ripped off from the independent app makers, who have provided that feature for years.

* The references to specific networks are as of September 11, 2010. I'm not going to keep updating these lists, because I expect scores, even hundreds, to be added in time, and I expect most application makers to be working on applications that support multiple social networks. I.e., the number of applications, and the number of social networks they will be supporting, is basically infinite.

(Here is a short URL to this post: )

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