Time for Twitter to open up its API again?
Throughout Jessi Hempel’s piece there are constant references to to what Twitter itself has or has not done. The article ends with this challenge:
… if it cannot figure out how to eradicate the harassers …
How about letting the wider community of developers and entrepreneurs try to figure it out?
Twitter built its success on an open API that allowed people to build third party apps and other tools on top of its platform. But a few years ago, the company began to limit its API and also squeeze third-party apps. This irritated many developers and users, but people understood that it was a necessary step if Twitter was going to monetise the platform.
But if, as Hempel warns, the trolls will scupper proper monetisation, then what has the company to lose from liberalising its API and allowing greater flexibility in what developers can create?
It’s not just that developers may come up with a single creative solution to the trolling problem that Twitter could integrate into its flagship apps. It’s that developers will come up with dozens of solutions to the problem that would work in parallel, serving dofferent kinds of users and situations. Some new apps might seriously limit what @ mentions appear in your timeline. Some apps may automatically mute certain accounts. Some apps could even function only for protected accounts. Some may have a sophisticated AI that identifies and mutes trolls and abuse automatically. Solutions like these would find a different user base, while Twitter itself remains the bastion of free speech in all its raw glory.
If Twitter is in trouble, and has not been able to solve its problems internally, then maybe it needs help from the outside?