This week saw a tweet from @bottlenoseapp that the petition to keep the Twitter ecosystem open has moved past the 500-signature goal. Bottlenose, the service co-founded by Nova Spivack, who created the petition and tweeted the same, uses natural language processing, semantic classification, sentiment analytics and trend detection to give users insight into the social stream in real-time (see this story for news on its most recent update).
Bottlenose integrates with Twitter via its API, just as do many other services and apps that need to post data to and get data from Twitter – whether they are semantic in nature or not. So, Twitter's move earlier this summer that appeared to be imposing restrictions on how third party developers use its API, in the name of delivering a more consistent Twitter consumption experience, is an understandable concern.
The petition, live since July, lists four points for Twitter to act on:
- Uphold the promise of being an open platform by keeping the developer APIs open;
- Clarify its intentions for the developer community immediately to avoid causing economic damage to companies and developers;
- Respect and appreciate the enormous ecosystem around its company and product and leverage its network effects; and
- Let users choose how they access the Twitter network – “view this diversity as a good problem to have. Monetize it if you need to, but don't try to stop it,” it reads.
“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,” writes Spivack about the Twitter APIs in explaining the petition. “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.”
The Twitter Alternative
Twitter may be taken to task in other ways, too. In an interesting timing coincidence, the start of the week also saw the news that the App.net social service – which, with its API, is behind a proof-of-concept, ad-free, paid, Twitter-alternative alpha service – has met a half-million dollar funding goal. That was set by founder Dalton Caldwell one month ago with the launch of his self-described “Kickstarter-esque” campaign to make “a financially sustainable realtime feed API & service” a reality. (You can check out some other Kickstarter services with a "smarter web focus” that we’ve covered in the past in our story here.)
Caldwell, who has a well-established Web 2.0 bio, wrote in that announcement that he’d been working on App.net for a year as a paid service for mobile web app developers as well as a “secret project” consisting of a consumer-facing iOS app and service.
“During this development process, we have spent a great deal of time thinking about realtime feeds, developer APIs, and creating a service that we enjoy using,” he wrote. Already built at the time of his post, he says, were the “polished native iOS app, a robust technical infrastructure currently capable of handing ~200MM API calls per day with no code changes, and a developer-facing API provisioning, documentation and analytics system.”
Fund contributors offered up $50 for one year of service on App.net, or $100 for that plus access to the App.net developer tool-chain that includes API key generation and an analytics dashboard, among other capabilities.
The primary goal of App.net is to be more of an infrastructure provider than a media mogul whose user-generated content is its biggest asset, and to put users and developers first: “The business model of the join.app.net proposal is predicated on providing a service to its users and developers. In my business model, trying to monetize in and around other people’s “content” is not our reason for existence. The propagation of “content” through our pipes is just the side effect of providing an amazingly useful service. In other words, content is not king– it’s just bits passing through our system, at the behest of our customers,” Caldwell writes in his blog.
There he also taps into the issues surrounding the Twitter open ecosystem petition – that those who choose to use the APIs from platforms such as Twitter and Facebook “can do amazing things that would be impractical if you attempted to build the entire service yourself from scratch,” he says. But, it’s at the risk “that if your platform decided one day that it doesn’t like what you are doing, or likes what you are doing so much they want to compete with you, it’s Very Bad. Your platform partner can easily damage your quality of service, or simply shut you down. If that happens, your business is dead.”
While App.net doesn’t appear to be leveraging semantic standards specifically, Caldwell has pledged openness, writing that “as the social web evolves, we want to be able to provide the hooks into our service for users to syndicate content in and out via current and emerging standards.” He’s noted that if successful, App.net will support, among other things, Activitystrea.ms Atom and JSON feeds.
As developer Max Ogden describes here, “ActivityStreams is implementing what is called "actor-verb-object" logic to represent social streams.” Atom Activity Streams is an XML format that allows activities on social objects to be expressed within the Atom Syndication Format, while JSON Activity Streams details the serialization of a stream of social activities using the JSON format. In both cases the specifications state that they aim to provide sufficient metadata about an activity such that a consumer of the data can present it to a user in a rich human-friendly format. This may include constructing readable sentences about the activity that occurred, visual representations of the activity, or combining similar activities for display, the specs note