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Petition urges Twitter to remain open, competitor hits funding goal

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In recent months, Twitter has slowly pulled the door closed on third-party developers. However, a movement against Twitter’s decision to close up shop is slowly bubbling up online.

Through open APIs, developers have been able to build their own apps based on Twitter’s services for years. Apps like Hootsuite and Tweetbot let users read timelines, post tweets, and follow people without having to use Twitter’s own website or apps.

Lately, Twitter has been steering developers away from creating such apps. In March 2011, the company’s Ryan Sarver discouraged developers from creating “client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience.” The firm’s Michael Sippey underlined that point in June, giving few hints as to the direction of the company’s platform at the same time. It seems expanded tweets are at the heart of the issue.

A petition for the company to be clearer in its dealings with developers has 490 signatories at the time of writing, 10 shy of its goal of 500. It states:

"Twitter's growth has been largely due to third-party developers and apps that were built on Twitter's promise of "open" APIs. These apps are what spread Twitter and what created the rich tapestry of innovation and network effects that have helped the company achieve prominence so quickly. Nearly a million developers took Twitter at their word, and poured their hearts, time, money and careers into building apps on this supposedly "open" platform's APIs. These include many popular apps that are widely used and loved by tens of millions of consumers, professionals, startups and large companies alike. … If Twitter closes these APIs or restricts them, all of these third-party apps and all of the users who use them are at risk."

The petition, which it must be noted was started by Nova Spivack, a cofounder of the Daily Dot, claims thousands of jobs are at stake for businesses that “provide products and services based around Twitter's ‘open’ APIs” and that millions of community members who use third-party apps to access Twitter will be affected.

The arguments for third-party Twitter apps are numerous, but perhaps none are more poignant than one posted by signatory Sarah Jevnikar: “As a blind user, I rely on Twitter clients to access this amazing network. Don't take that option away from me.”

Meanwhile, a developer who’s disillusioned with “rotten-to-the-core ‘platforms’” like Twitter and Facebook has created an alternative. A day before the deadline of its crowdfunding campaign, Dalton Caldwell’s App.net passed its funding goal of $500,000. With the campaign having just a few hours left to run, App.net has raised over $700,000. More than 10,600 people have pledged at least $50 to back the project and have early access to the community.

App.net promises it “will never sell your personal data, content, feed, interests, clicks, or anything else to advertisers.” Instead, its charging people to access the ad-free community. Significantly, in light of the Twitter API discussion, Caldwell is looking to foster close relationships with third-party developers, going so far as to propose a revenue-sharing scheme with them.

Whether enough people will pay $50 per year to turn App.net into a sustainable buisness (and by extension, a long-lasting community) remains to be seen. Yet the dissatisfaction many feel towards Twitter right now has led to thousands of people shelling out up to $1,000 to join App.net in the space of a month.

Photo by jgurbisz/Flickr