We have some tough news: We’re going to be shutting down the ThinkUp service on July 18 and issuing a refund then for the balance of all member subscriptions. There have been significant changes from Instagram, Twitter and Facebook that make it too hard for us to keep the service running, especially since we’ve been struggling as a business. We’re sorry, and we’re going to try to handle this shutdown the right way.
Here’s everything we know right now:
- When: Were closing new signups for ThinkUp.com today, and we’ll be stopping service for current users on July 18. You’ll continue to get insights and ThinkUp emails until then.
- Refunds: When we close your ThinkUp account, you’ll automatically get a pro-rated refund for the balance of your subscription. You can also close your account on your membership page before then, and you’ll be refunded the appropriate balance. (Trial members are welcome to keep their accounts open until the end of the trial period.)
- Payment: We’ve never directly collected your payment information (it’s stored by Amazon Payments and Stripe), so closing your ThinkUp account will remove our ability to ask Amazon or Stripe for payments, and you don’t need to do anything else.
- Securing your data: We won’t sell your data to anyone, ever. We’re working on a full data export system for those of you who want a copy of your ThinkUp data—we’ll contact current members with specific details shortly. After a grace period to let everyone get a copy of their data, we’ll securely delete all the user data from the system.
Why are we doing this? The biggest reason is it’s become impossible from a technical standpoint to keep gathering data from all of the social networks. From a business standpoint, there simply aren’t enough ThinkUp subscribers to cover the cost of investing in the massive amount of development that would be needed to deal with these technical challenges.
Why not sell ThinkUp to a bigger company that could pay to keep developing it? Because, in short, it may not be possible for anyone to build ThinkUp’s features on top of the major social networks. And we didn’t want to just sell ThinkUp’s members to the highest bidder as a marketing database.
ThinkUp works by gathering your social networking data from services like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and then analyzing it to provide insights. These services provide APIs (application programming interfaces) that allow us to gather this data — but it’s only the data they permit us to access, and only under the terms they dictate. Last year, Facebook greatly limited the kinds of data we could collect (some of this was for good reason, because other apps were using the same data to violate people’s privacy); we did a lot of work to handle these changes but the net result was that we lost a lot of ThinkUp’s Facebook features.
This week, Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) did something similar. They made significant changes to their APIs, in order to focus companies like ours on working in one of three categories. Basically, what ThinkUp is doing, and the kinds of analysis we’re trying to provide, doesn’t fall neatly into the categories Instagram wants to allow. And while we could probably find a technical workaround to those limitations, it would take a lot of expensive development and probably be in conflict with Instagram’s terms of service.
And the third service we support, Twitter, has announced significant upcoming changes to its own API, due this fall. In their case, Twitter isn’t trying to limit certain kinds of apps — in fact, some of the API changes might make it possible to create worthwhile new insights — but the expense of making massive changes to ThinkUp to accommodate this switch would be prohibitive.
Worst of all, even if we make all the necessary development changes that would be required to continue supporting these networks, there’s no guarantee that they wouldn’t just change their APIs again. We’ve even been through a similar situation on the back-end part of our service, when Amazon (our payments provider) changed their payments API, and we ended up having to do a lot of development just to keep offering the same product to customers.
As we started talking to potential partners a few months ago, this came up as the biggest concern for their ongoing support of ThinkUp, and with good reason. Knowing that these challenges are only going to get worse makes it economically unsustainable to keep trying to build ThinkUp.
We love ThinkUp, and our members, and we’re proud of having a community of users who’ve been so enthusiastic and supportive from day one. Our goal has always been to try to make the time we spend online a little more meaningful and thoughtful, and we hope that ThinkUp has done that for you over the last few years. (And just to be clear, none of this impacts Makerbase.)
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org at any time.