If I could walk away from Twitter, I would.

Sadly, I can’t. Why not? Because I cater to users in the education world now, and by and large, my users are Twitter users who don’t even know what identi.ca is.

See, this is the danger inherent to monolithic web services: the network is the lock-in. And if the web services provider changes access policies to that network in a way that you don’t like, then buddy, you’re out of luck.

So Twitter broke the entire open source world today with their move to OAuth. So what? Are all those Twitter users gonna move over to identi.ca?

Let me answer that rhetorical question for you: no. No, they won’t.

What’s more, the question of “open source or closed source” doesn’t even enter into it. Twitter could open source their codebase tomorrow, and people could set up their own Twitter servers, and it wouldn’t matter; all the users are at twitter.com, and no force on Earth would move them to fredsmicrobloggingservice.com.

The network is the lock-in.

If I could walk away from Twitter, I would.

13 thoughts on “If I could walk away from Twitter, I would.

    1. Wrong, Aaron. I can’t walk away because *MY CUSTOMERS USE TWITTER*. To walk away from Twitter means to walk away *FROM MY CUSTOMERS*.

      Or, if you want to be didactic about it: sure, I could walk away from all the people who pay my salary. But that wouldn’t be very bright. Won’t and can’t become, from certain angles, pretty nearly indistinguishable.

  1. I’m not entirely sure *how*, but identi.ca/status.net managed to talk to several instances of status.net servers using the OpenMicroblogging Protocol. Should twitter implement that, they would immediately lose half their userbase, as small uBlogging communities form.

    1. Gunnar, read Ryan Paul’s Ars Technica article for why Twitter’s implementation of OAuth is painful.

      Key quote #1: “requiring third-party developers to embed a consumer secret key in the source code of their Twitter client applications potentially puts free and open source (FOSS) client software at greater risk of key exposure than closed-source client software.”

      Key quote #2: “Twitter initially said that the only real solution for FOSS Twitter client developers is to have each individual end user register their own application key to copy and paste into the program. The process of registering Twitter application keys is somewhat unintuitive because it is intended for application developers. It’s simply not reasonable to expect regular end users to walk through those steps.”

      Key quote #3: “Twitter’s approach to OAuth is obviously misguided, but it gets even crazier when you compare the company’s implementation against the actual standard. The OAuth specification itself describes the secret key security issue and says explicitly that implementors should not do what Twitter is trying to do.”

  2. I don’t post to twitter. I have a 200+ followers on there (600 on identica) although the 200 is definitely not the height it was at, at one point. I’m on close to 20 twitter ‘lists’ and I left twitter before that feature even existed. Again, I do not post on twitter and deleted all old posts so it is obvious I don’t use it.

    Today ‘@mairin’ was mentioned on twitter 20 times.

    Again, I do not post on twitter.

    I have had several people tell me they had not heard of identi.ca before clicking on my profile and that they signed up for it to follow my posts.

    Yeh, my target audience is absolutely better represented by identi.ca users, and those who cross-post to twitter are getting me the traffic from twitter. Just today though someone I don’t know added me on identi.ca with ‘linux’ and ‘education’ listed as her interests. Maybe build up a base on identi.ca and migrate to a similar scheme when it’s strong enough?

    It’s just an idea. If you don’t build up the floss/edu community on identi.ca who will?

  3. I feel your pain Greg – I am forced to use Yahoo for IM because practically everyone I know is using it and I need IM over Yahoo for my day to day activity as a photographer, drop it and I become isolated. And man, the FOSS support for Y!M is so poor (both in Pidgin and Empathy)…

  4. loupgaroublond says:

    FOSS or not, here’s my rather uninformed point of view of what Twitter is doing wrong. They are screwing over their own userbase. You’re feeling the pain of being on the receiving end. FOSS or not, it sounds like they are simply Doing It Wrong.

    Your problem is not that you are locked into the network, but that there aren’t enough voices to convince Twitter to do it right. You can’t just walk away because your business model depends on a third party. So you need demonstrate to Twitter that it’s in their best interests to serve you. Threatening to walk away is the least effective way to do it.

    1. The problem is that, for much of the world, they’re not doing it particularly wrong — or at least visibly wrong. This issue — hardcoding private keys in code for the sake of “better” security — is only an issue that affects open source project developers, and those users that rely upon their work. And in the twitterverse, like it or not, that number is a small percentage of the population.

      Now, for those affected by the issue, the problem is acute. Twitter is hearing loud and clear from that segment of their developer base, so let’s see if they take action.

  5. rch says:

    Networks come and go — Twitter and identi.ca are no different.

    The long list of functional deficiencies that apply to both begins with ‘requires unique user name’ and ends with ‘undifferentiated stream of useless information’.

    All anyone needs to take a crack at replacing even the most entrenched network service is a catchy URL and some common sense.

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