Twitter is on the offensive but by taking steps to bolster the service does it risk separating itself from its tradition and over-complicating the service?
As Twitter moves to include more data “in stream” and we have rumours of more services such as booking a restaurant to playing games being integrated in to the experience the network, as others have said, is becoming more and more like Facebook.
The service is evolving with expanded tweets now the distant cousin of the Twitter Annotations feature that was proposed some time ago. “Twannotations” were suggested as a means to embed data inside tweets but fears over the complexity and probable lack of standards caused this to go quiet early on. The response has been for Twitter to take control and provide the limited, proprietary system that is expanded tweets.
Building on sandy ground
There is ongoing concern over the apparent message that Twitter will restrict access to functionality via its API and Developers argue that there could be a public backlash if third-party client applications are cut off. However, these developers obviously have a vested interested and, to be honest, the writing has been on the wall for quite a while.
Twitter has given warnings that developers should build services that do things Twitter doesn’t and have explicitly mentioned that client applications are not in line with that philosophy.
The accidentally leaked update list for the latest iOS version of Twitters’ app shows the company is looking to make it a force to be reckoned with. By updating the client to mirror the new functionality found on the website and, hopefully, finally unifying the user experience we will actually have a compelling reason to give the official client another try, especially if that enhanced functionality is exclusive.
It is, therefore, possible that Twitter could engineer a user migration away from third-party applications without actually having to pull the plug. Users are resilient and can adapt with continuing access to features of their chosen network more important than loyalty to an individual client.
Better functionality without having to resort to external companies and pay for their apps? I think many would welcome it and are secretly wishing Twitter would get its act together rather than start a backlash.
The real risk?
Twitter has always been unwilling to abandon its mobile roots and the simplicity that affords (hence the 140 character limit and reluctance to embed URLs as metadata) but are the latest (and proposed) updates taking us beyond this?
The simplicity of Twitter is what helps it maintain its niche but, if things continue as they are going, where do we draw the line between useful functionality and over-complexity?
The real risk lies in alienating the user by removing the simplicity it currently provides when compared to the likes of Facebook or Google+. While users are, indeed, adaptable simplicity is at the core of the Twitter experience and if that – above all else – is eroded then we may see a backlash.