A sad email arrived this morning from API rerouting service If This Then That (IFTTT):
“In recent weeks, Twitter announced policy changes that will affect how applications and users like yourself can interact with Twitter’s data. As a result of these changes, on September 27th we will be removing all Twitter Triggers”
To those of us who use IFTTT this is a bit of a blow. Currently I have a routine saved on IFTTT (also known as a recipe) which grabs any of my starred tweets and sends them to my Instapaper account. A simple process that means when I tap the little star on a tweet with a link to an article, Instapaper sees the tweet and downloads a text only version of the linked article as saves it for offline viewing. I usually read my recent articles when travelling to work on the train and the internet connection isn’t so good. I go from starred tweets to interesting mini-magazine on my iPhone in seconds.
For me to set up this kind of cross posting system would have been at least a few hours work. On IFTTT it took all of 2 minutes. But now as twitter cuts off these third party apps my recipe is gone forever, worse still: the web gets a little less useful. In fact Twitter gets a little less useful, in return – they hope – they plan to monetise some more of its traffic by having all the data run through it’s own site (and not these third party companies).
“The result of people using a system and shaping it to suit them”
But is this actually not a bit damaging? Maybe not immediately, but at some point this might actually make people think twice about link sharing. I’m probably being a bit crotchety here, but the bigger point holds true: the way Twitter has grown is based on the early adopters jumped on the service and made it there own. Most of the recognisable features of the service (using the @ sign to replay, hashtags, retweets) are all the result of people using a system and shaping it to suit them.
But as Twitter gradually kills off it’s deep rooted connections to other services – just like a plant having its root structure damaged – the whole entity is weaker. And as twitter is quite a big deal, I fear the whole of the web will feel this shock. Basically, its a bit like that scene in Avatar when they chop the big tree down. Sort of.
And how am I going to get my mini-magazine now?
This article owes a lot this this excellent post on the same subject from a couple of months ago: What Twitter Could Have Been by Dalton Caldwell.