Leasing phones and the Twitter API

I don’t know if most of you were around in the early days of phones, but there was a time when phone companies actually leased you the phone you were using. Every month as part of your bill you would send them something extra for each of the phones that you had connected in your house. This was all fine and good if you used the phone service in the traditional manner; namely making voice calls while connected via cord to a device connected to the wall. The phone company routinely discouraged people from plugging in other devices into their phone system, claiming it might cause disruptions and otherwise compromise that beloved phone system you use. And you wouldn’t want to do that now would you?

And when the phone company monopoly was broken up, we suddenly were free to plug whatever we chose into the phone system. Modems, fax machines, cordless phones, and answering machines.

This morning Seesmic turned off Twitter Proxies in their client application. I’m sure the reasoning was because Twitter didn’t use them, nobody else should use them. Unfortunately I was using them in order to communicate with identi.ca, so with one update I lost access to my identi.ca account from my phone.

Needless to say I’m not particularly pleased with this decision.

I understand Twitter is trying to move everyone over to their new API. I get that times change. But what is becoming more clear is Twitter is trying to get into the “leasing handset” business, where you only have one way to access their services – via their client.

And my rebellious nature is screaming at me to just delete my Twitter account and be done with it altogether. “Fine. If they want to close out third-party apps, I don’t need to use the service anymore”.

But cooler heads prevail for now. As soon as Twitter breaks every one of the apps that I currently use, I’ll stop posting to Twitter. One month afterward I’m deleting my account.

Will Twitter care? Probably not. I’m no longer their target audience.

Honestly I’m starting to find myself more over on Google+, which has no preconceived notions of openness. There’s only one mobile client, and damned if you can’t access it any other way.

Hypocritical? Probably. But I’ve only used Google+ one way. I don’t know any other way. Twitter is busily taking patterns that I used and turning them off.

Wouldn’t you be more pissed off if the phone company suddenly made your phone obsolete than if they never provided choice?

Now to find a new mobile client for identi.ca.

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.


  1. Stephen says:

    Can you access Twitter, G+, Identi.ca via web browser on your phone? I mean, is their web broswer support that bad? Smart phones have Pentium II class CPUs. I recall owning a functioning Pentium II. It wasn’t that bad.

    • craig says:

      You can, but they’re not great. It’s better to have an app so you can take advantage of phone functionality like uploading photos and whatnot.

      PII-class machines never had to deal with Javascript. πŸ˜‰

  2. Les Orchard says:

    I blogged last summer about my rageface over Twitter API decisions, pretty much in agreement from another angle (ie. outsourcing innovation for free until you’ve got enough):


    The funny thing About G+, though, is they’ve never had a write-API and probably never will. So, you’re leasing the phone from them from the get-go. But, I guess that’s what you mean by “no preconceived notions of openness”

    The main issue in my mind with all this stuff is that us open-warriors haven’t yet come up with a distributed social network that most people can actually use and flock to.

    I suspect it’s still possible, and I tinker around with notions from time to time. Problem is, honestly most of my itches have been scratched by the existing options and there are other interesting things on which to work.

    • craig says:

      Well, we’ve come up with things people can use, but the flocking part is the tricky part of this equation. Identi.ca / Statusnet are places where people can flock, but there’s nobody on there outside of the freedom-loving crowd that keeps using it. Unfortunately the freedom-folks got so rabid that most of the folks I followed over there moved on to Twitter because hey, Twitter don’t care how free you are.

      We have to the protocols to make this work, but we haven’t had the catalyst for change that we’ve needed. And because most people are OK with “leasing phones”, it’s bound to never change as long as folks can connect with whomever they want.

      There are still people out there leasing rotary phones from the phone company to the tune of thousands of dollars. They just never got uncomfortable enough to check around for options.