Twitter’s Hypocrisy

Neutrality for some, but not for all.

https://twitter.com/jimray/status/509740636946190338

We’re finally at the point where the public is fighting for their right to unrestricted Internet access. It’s starting to look like net neutrality might become a “thing” in the US, maybe.

This has been in large part due to grassroot activists getting the word out, John Oliver, and the support of tech companies that are directly affected and willing to speak out (e.g. Netflix, and Reddit). Also included is Twitter:

“We support the Internet Slowdown campaign and its efforts to draw public attention to a critically important issue. We’re not planning to add a banner to our home page, but we’ll participate in other ways.” -Twitter Spokesperson (source)

Twitter is a company that got it’s start as a website and an API. If you wanted an app for tweeting, which made Twitter really valuable, you needed a 3rd-party client that depended on API. Now that Twitter has the success, resources, and the financial incentive, they’ve released their own apps and have enabled limits on their API. In the same way that Internet fast-lanes hurt innovation, so do Twitter’s restrictive API rules.

Yes, the Internet and Twitter are different. For one thing, the Internet is now an indispensable network that people rely on, and is pretty much a utility now. It wasn’t always that way though. Only in retrospect do we see how obviously indispensable the internet is. One day Twitter could become indispensable too. Many would considerate indispensable today.

While I don’t think Twitter is at the point that it should be regulated, I do think they should take a long look in the mirror. They want a level playing field on the platform they built their business on (the Internet). Other innovators also want a level playing field on this higher-level platform, Twitter. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

FAQ

If Twitter behaves unfairly couldn’t another service take it’s place?

You could say the same for Comcast, except that both are types of monopolies, but for different reasons. Comcast is a monopoly in many places due to the prohibitively high-cost of laying new physical cables into houses. Twitter though is protected by network effects. One service, app.net, tried to make a dent, and has so far failed miserably.

Twitter is a service, owned by people, the internet is different

No analogy is perfect. Twitter is both a platform (like the Internet) and a company that provides access to it (like Comcast). This is where there’s the conflict. Twitter Inc wants to make money, but they do so at the expense of the platform. Currently Twitter Inc has just as much right to limit the access to the platform that Comcast has to slow down Netflix traffic. That is, unless the FCC reclassifies the Internet as a utility.

The slowing down of the entire internet is not as bad as Twitter API limits.

Agreed, but Twitter is still being hypocritical and their API limits still hurt innovation.

Are you saying that Twitter shouldn’t be supporting Net Neutrality?

Not at all! Net Neutrality is extremely important, and needs all the help it can get. I just wish Twitter thought the same thing about their API.

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