August 1, 2011
For a year or so now I’ve been using an awesome add-on service to Twitter called Topify. Topify is an Israeli company that makes what is essentially a very simple product – by changing the contact address of a twitter user to one provided by Topify, the standard notification emails from twitter for new followers and direct message are replaced with a rich email that has contextual information within it and also gives enables the recipient to perform actions – follow new followers or reply to DMs for example – all from within the email, and without using a twitter client. As Topify themselves say;
Topify was conceived as a response to long frustration with useless emails. Emails that you couldn’t process from your inbox, emails that had very frustrating mobile experience. Topify was sort of experiment, to see if it can be done better. Judging by your response and adoption, the experiment was successful.
Well, at least it was successful. You see, the other day I received an email from Topify saying that;
A week ago, without any prior notice, Twitter changed their backend resulting in removing headers from their emails which we used to provide you the Topify service… Considering this last episode and other actions by Twitter in the past year, I have no desire to experiment with their beta offerings. Not only this can result in unstable service for you, they might just shut it down one day.
One of my favorite Twitter add on services closing down due only to the vagaries of Twitter’s approach towards its ecosystem. The issue for me here, is that Topify hasn’t be crushed by Twitter introducing similar functionality itself, while that would be bad for Topify, for end users it would make little or no different. Rather twitter has made some random changes to its backend which have had the unintended consequence of breaking the Topify functionality, and given the approach twitter takes to it’s ecosystem members, Topify founder Arik Fraimovich isn’t keen to try and get it going again only to potentially have the same thing happen down he line.
Now I’ve long been the first to point out that Twitter is manouevering to work out how to monetize, is a young service that needs to explore its own options first and foremost, even when this comes at the expense of partners, and has a track record of changing things on a whim. But t the same time Twitter is a service that businesses are using as an essential tool in their communications toolset – changes like this, that have the effect of breaking important functionality, do nothing to increase the perception hat Twitter is a tool that is truly ready for business use.
Topify is one small example, and one that, with a bit of hassle, can be replaced. But on the broader scale, moves like this are bad for everyone, the ecosystem partners, the customers and, eventually, for Twitter itself.