Startups Worry that Twitter and Facebook Are Blocking Their Way

From Technology Review:

Hundreds of thousands of developers know that building apps that rely on the Facebook or Twitter platforms comes at a risk—at any time, the companies can change their access rules or launch a competing feature.

The risk is often worth the built-in audience and data from millions of users. Just look at how Zynga grew. Lately, though, as both Twitter and Facebook strain to bring in more revenue and threaten to tighten their platform rules or alter their features to this end, the perennial uncertainty is worsening. For some startups, the situation is even stalling investments or delaying product plans while they wait to see how the future will shake out.

Twitter, which attracted millions of users in part by throwing open its data to outside developers and spawning more than a million third-party apps, has given developers reason to think it may be changing course.

As a business plan for Twitter emerged, the third-party software that many people still use to access the service or interact with it offsite may threaten its ambitions. This is because it cannot guarantee that those using outside apps will see sponsored tweets or the new expanded news and multimedia posts on its site. In a June blog post, Twitter said it would seek a more “consistent” user experience going forward, leading to speculation that it would soon issue more constraining developer guidelines for many kinds of apps. “Consistent” is the same word Twitter used when it began to make it more difficult for developers to maintain applications that closely replicated the mainstream Twitter experience last year.

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