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What comes next as Facebook and Twitter slowly die?

Mark Gibbs | Oct. 1, 2012
Gibbs follows up on his column from two weeks ago wherein he claimed " I think I know just what might be the smart [social media] tubes of the future.

When it comes to the question of whether Facebook can find the unicorn -- the killer revenue generator I discussed in the previous column -- Marc is far more optimistic than I am: He rates the probability of unicorn finding at 40% compared to my 1% (Marc, did we make a bet on this? I'll put 50 bones on no unicorn in the next 12 months ... we on?)

As for Twitter, which is still privately held, its profitability is as yet unknown. But it's obvious that the pressure to improve revenue is huge because the company has recently been doing something that could only be explained by them as rethinking where the money might come from: They've made it so that third-party apps that interact with Twitter have either no access or reduced functionality.

The roster of affected applications and services includes Tumblr, LinkedIn, Instagram, Tweetbot, Twitterific, UberSocial, TweetDeck, and Seesmic and, as of today, the excellent service IFTTT.

Given that it was the third party application market that was responsible for much of Twitter's growth and success this looks a lot like biting the hand that feeds you but Twitter apparently doesn't care.

Twitter's CEO, Dick Costello, commented on the Charlie Rose Show:

"The future of Twitter is that we'll have a true platform...not just an API that allows developers to create an alternate Twitter experience, but an API that allows third parties to build on top of Twitter in a way that creates accretive value for the user, much how Amazon allowed third-party merchants to build into Amazon."

"True platform"? "Accretive value for the user"? What nonsense. Weasel words to cover up what is a social media land grab ... Twitter is simply trying to make the way the service is accessed and the user-generate content their own exclusive territory.

So, if you agree that Costello's idea of what might be a "true platform" is wrong, what might a "true platform" look like? In the computer world the word "platform" implies a foundation or stage on which other functions or products operate. As for true, well, that's in the eye of the marketer, but it would seem to be associated with the idea of generality and, might I suggest, "openness."

I'd argue that a true platform is, to use an old, hoary saw, "a level playing field," a generalized underpinning that services a wide range of things that depend on the platform to operate. For example, Linux and OS X are "true" platforms while Windows and iOS, due to vendor constraints, are only sort of true.

So, what in social networking might be a "true" platform? Well, it's not Facebook or Twitter ...


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