Twitter’s path

Like many others, me included, Orian Marx is worried about the direction in which Twitter seems to be heading. In a comprehensive blog post (via @ayjay) that is a good, if somewhat depressing, read for anyone who cares about the service, he writes about its past, present and (potential) future:

I have had a love / hate relationship with Twitter for four years. As a technologist, it is impossible not to be enamored with the transformative effect Twitter has had not just within my industry but the world at large. As an entrepreneur and perhaps an idealist, it is impossible not to be embittered by the trajectory upon which Twitter has set itself as a company. […]

I think Twitter will continue to spread FUD until what’s left of the ecosystem remains wilting in the carefully arranged flower beds of its walled garden, foregoing the legacy of all the good ideas that got it to where it is today.

While I hope he is wrong, I am afraid he will be proven all too right. Twitter has now reached the point where they need to start making a profit, but like so many other web services they have chosen to make their users into the product they sell rather than the customers they serve.

Along with Facebook’s failed IPO and their, as well as Google’s, serial privacy violations, Twitter’s recent actions are just the latest indication that we are entering a critical new phase in the (admittedly short) history of social media companies. After several years of explosive user growth, which has also brought with it large amounts of investor funding, many of them now face increasing pressures to generate revenue in a market where ”free” is the norm. Rather than giving users the chance of paying for services, they try to build their business exclusively on ad networks.

When that happens, openness quickly gives way to attempts at control in a modern enclosure movement. Except that today, the sheep being enclosed — or shut out — are you and me.