Archive for the ‘Openness’ Category

Ubermedia to launch a Twitter rival?

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Following on from my previous post about the Ubermedia vs. Twitter confrontation, news has emerged that Ubermedia is planning a service that would compete with Twitter. CNN has the scoop, although I prefer the Business Insider article, purely because it has an awesome photo (I’m actually quite jealous of that photo – it makes my ground squirrels seem quite boring by comparison) .

One curious aspect to all of this is that, although rumours first emerged that Ubermedia was in talks to acquire TweetDeck more than two months ago, there’s been no official confirmation. Twitter’s announcement that new client apps are unwelcome suggests that it won’t now be possible to launch a new Twitter client, which means that the existing clients have just become more valuable. TweetDeck may have other suitors. Combine that with the fact that it could be argued that Twitter’s targeting of Ubermedia has made them a less-attractive merger prospect (rumour has it that TweetDeck’s shareholders would have been paid at least partly in Ubermedia stock), and it wouldn’t surprise me if TweetDeck’s holding out for more money.

A month ago, Mashable reported that recent auctions of Twitter shares value the company at $7.7bn. If Ubermedia is the biggest threat to that valuation, I wonder how much it’s worth to Twitter to remove that threat, either by buying Ubermedia or, if that’s not an option, by snapping up the remaining third-party clients (like TweetDeck) to deny Ubermedia the opportunity to add their users to its own.

Meanwhile, Rstat.us and Diaspora are quietly bubbling along in the background and could end up crashing the whole party.

Written by jackgavigan

April 18, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Posted in Openness

Open vs Proprietary platforms

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A few weeks ago, Twitter suspended two of Ubermedia’s clients from accessing the Twitter API. I was busy at the time and didn’t pay much attention but Twitter’s recent announcement discouraging the development of new Twitter clients and a tweet from entrepreneur/VC Max Niederhofer (“What if the inventor of SMTP had told people to stop building email clients? Will Twitter go the way of Usenet?“) got me thinking about whole affair again.

There’s an interesting dynamic happening here. In principle, there’s no barrier to building an open version of Twitter (or Facebook, for that matter). In fact, SMTP and Usenet are good examples of open, decentralised platforms for e-mail and discussion boards, respectively. There’s no reason you couldn’t have multiple micro-blogging sites, publishing RSS-style feeds that are aggregated on the client side.  But Twitter don’t want that because, in that scenario, the network effects that currently drive everyone to Twitter would be neutralised. A lot of the eyeballs that Twitter wants to display adverts to would disappear, and Twitter would go the way of Compuserve. In fact, there are indications that Twitter is moving away from open standards like RSS.

So, Twitter needs to own its users’ eyeballs in order to generate revenue from them and justify its multi-billion dollar valuation. But what happens if users are accessing Twitter through a third-party app (like Ubermedia’s apps) that connects via Twitter’s API? Ownership of those users’ eyeballs is a little murkier. Arguably, Ubermedia has more control over them than Twitter. If Ubermedia were to add support for other micro-blogging platforms to their clients, Twitter could very rapidly lose it’s dominant position (and the attendant market valuation).

Twitter’s response was to stomp on Ubermedia by suspending its clients. They’d probably like to withdraw support for third-party clients altogether but there’d be a massive outcry and, potentially, the risk of legal action or some kind of FTC investigation, so they’ve settled for making it clear that new Twitter clients are unwelcome. More interestingly, they’ve also made changes to the T&Cs that are clearly designed to prevent developers from siphoning Twitter content into their own micro-blogging service, including a stipulation that third-party clients “must use the Twitter API as the sole source for features that are substantially similar to functionality offered by Twitter” and “may not use Twitter Content or other data collected from end users of your Client to create or maintain a separate status update or social network database or service.”

Exactly what this means for apps like TweetDeck, which includes support for Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn status updates, remains to be seen. Coincidentally, Ubermedia is rumoured to have agreed to acquire TweetDeck (as if the plot weren’t thick enough already).

It’ll be interesting to see what happens next.

Written by jackgavigan

March 14, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Posted in Openness

Is Apple about to give Android a boost?

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Here’s what could happen if you’re a paid-for content provider and you invest in publishing your content on a proprietary platform that you don’t control – the platform owner turns around and decides to take 30% commission on every piece of content you sell.

This could really backfire on Apple. This year, we’re likely to start seeing a bunch of Android tablets come on the market and if publishers end up making 30% less revenue on iOS than they do on Android, it could lead them to focus more on the Android platform. Even if Apple backs down, a certain amount of damage has already been done – content providers will be taking a closer look at the terms and conditions they’re signing up to, and thinking about the longer-term implications of committing themselves to a content-delivery platform controlled by a company that’s willing to change the rules without consultation and relatively little warning.

It’s not completely unheard-of for a hardware manufacturer to take commission from content providers – that’s how the console gaming market works. The difference is that console manufacturers like Sony and Nintendo sell the consoles at a loss and rely on the fees they receive from games publishers to generate a profit over the long term. Apple make a profit on each iDevice they sell. Taking a commission on subscriber content seems a little greedy and, in this situation, being overly-greedy could result in Apple throwing away its first-mover advantage in the tablet business.

Photo: A lone Magellanic penguin on the beach at Gypsy Cove, near Stanley on East Falkland island in the South Atlantic.

Written by jackgavigan

January 27, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Posted in Openness