On Friday Twitter suspended UberMedia's UberTwitter, Twidroyd and UberCurrent apps for "violating Twitter policies and trademarks." Twitter continued: "We've had conversations with UberMedia, the developer of these applications, about policy violations since April 2010."
UberMedia's Bill Gross then responded by saying the suspensions "took us by surprise". Huh? Wha-? We're obviously not getting the whole story from either side, but it's clear Twitter had had enough of UberMedia's creative interpretation of its TOS to take a dramatic action to make its point.
The blogosphere is preoccupied with the notion that this is proof that Twitter is at war with the developer ecosystem and that it's somehow manipulating the playing field to favor its own homegrown apps.
But that discussion misses the larger point: Companies like UberMedia are attempting to profit directly at the presentation and consumption end of the stream infrastructure that Twitter has bought and paid for. In my opinion, UberMedia has the right to monetize "consumption environments" (its apps) that add value to end users. At the same time, Twitter deserves to be compensated for the utility it's providing to UberMedia.
The only issue here should be: Who gets paid and how much?
Twitter is at an important inflection point. It needs to come out and clearly articulate its position on attempts by outside parties to monetize the stream(s) built on top of its infrastructure.
My personal opinion is that Twitter should construct a model whereby commercial "rebroadcast" companies like UberMedia can choose to monetize streams delivered on their platform(s) however they want, but they must compensate Twitter on some type of metered basis (API calls or other) for providing the underlying infrastructure that gives UberMedia the opportunity to monetize on Twitter's back in the first place.
At the end of the day Twitter is an information utility - it's admitted as much on several occasions. It should start acting and pricing its product like one. If not, we can expect more of these types of altercations going forward.
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