Starting about two weeks ago, Twitter seems to have embarked on a program of doing it wrong.
- They have told independent developers not to bother writing primary clients for interacting with the service.
- They have (finally) announced that they are shutting down DabbleDB, a wonderful service that got caught up when Twitter bought out the company behind it for unrelated technology (Trendly).
- And of course, the dickbar.
A lot of people have written about the dickbar, a misfeature of the official Twitter iPhone app. The first version had a misbegotten interface that covered over your timeline until you played around with the phone. The second version was an improvement in UI terms, but still a misfeature in that it emphasizes information that I don’t care about (nor anyone else who has complained about it): showing global trending keywords among Twitter users.
Obviously the big reason behind the addition of this misfeature is money: it puts “promoted trends” front and center. But even apart from the monetization angle, it feels like evidence that Twitter is guiding people away from using the service the way, well, we do use it.
Twitter was conceived as a lightweight way to pass around status updates among acquaintances, and that is its greatest value to me and (I think) most people. The emphasis on trends seems to be designed to turn people into spectators rather than participants—trends answers the unasked question “what are people I don’t know talking about.” It doesn’t invite me into the conversation and it doesn’t relate to me or my circle of friends. I can see how it’s useful to, say, marketers though.
This fits with another aspect of Twitter’s service that debuted a while ago, where it suggested people for you to follow—celebrities. I see that now, it suggests people who are actually friends of friends (and promoted feeds), so apparently they’ve fine-tuned that, but it’s evidence of the same shift away from participation toward spectation.
Twitter’s got a right to run their service however they see fit. And if they keep going down the path they seem to be following, I have a right to go somewhere else.