If and when you see sponsored tweets show up in your Twitter stream, they’ll be coming from Twitter itself. CEO Dick Costolo today announced that Twitter “will not allow any third party to inject paid tweets into a timeline on any service that leverages the Twitter API.”
The post, titled “The Twitter Platform,” could have just as easily be called “Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Build Your Entire Business Based on Someone Else’s API.” Companies that leverage Twitter’s API (Tweetdeck, Seesmic, Twhirl, and countless others) will still be allowed to sell display ads around tweets but they can’t inject ads as tweets directly into Twitter streams.
It’s relatively good news for Twitter users as sponsored tweets will theoretically be as non-abrasive as possible. It’s better news for Twitter, as the company can control all the ads and keep most of the revenue generated from sponsored tweets, and it’s seemingly bad news for certain developers who have built software that uses Twitter’s API.
It’s not all bad news for developers though–and it’s not all good news for regular Twitter users. Instead of giving away their software for free and hoping to generate money from in-stream advertising, we may see developers begin to charge for software that would otherwise be given away. Your favorite desktop Twitter app that you downloaded for free may cost you a few bucks in the future unless whoever built it can make enough off of display ads to stay afloat.
The long term picture, according to Twitter, is “to preserve the unique user experience Twitter has created,” to de-emphasize “near-term monetization,” and—perhaps most importantly—“to keep in mind that Twitter bears all the costs of maintaining the network” and would almost certainly have to “bear many of the support costs associated with any third-party paid Tweets, as Twitter receives support emails related to anything a user sees in a Tweet stream.” Let’s not forget that Twitter hasn’t set any internet records for reliable uptime, so dealing with rogue ads probably isn’t too appealing.
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