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Does Twitter Really Think It Can Control Its Users?


Since the NBC/Twitter hook-up for the Olympics, the social network seems to think it can force users to do its bidding. Recently it cut off Tumblr and Instagram. Whether this is hubris or monetization, many are not amused.

In fact, since the NBC/Twitter hook up for the Olympics, the social network seems to think it can force users to do its bidding, like watch TV on command.

Blogger Mather Ingram presents persuasive evidence that Twitter thinks its "future is driving eyeballs to television programs."

Beyond TV, Twitter has been controlling users' experiences by blithely cutting off former partners from friend-finding privileges. It has already cut off access to LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD), Facebook-owned Instagram, and Tumblr.

The crime? These apps all changed the way they display tweets, and Twitter wants to have control over how each tweet is shown as well as control its users' "interest graphs."

Tumblr, which is not owned by a competitor and has been a close partner for the new Twitter Cards feature, was particularly hurt. Said Tumblr:

To our dismay, Twitter has restricted our users' ability to 'Find Twitter Friends' on Tumblr. Given our history of embracing their platform, this is especially upsetting. Our syndication feature is responsible for hundreds of millions of tweets, and we eagerly enabled Twitter Cards across 70 million blogs and 30 million posts as one of Twitters first partners.

The moves seem designed as a prelude to monetization. According to developer Dustin Curtis:

Twitter has an enormous advantage over Facebook in one key area: while people on Facebook tend to friend their friends, people on Twitter tend to follow their interests. The social graph that makes up Twitter is worth far more on a per-account basis because it is directly monetizable in a way that Facebook's generally isn't – you can show prophylactic advertisements to Twitter users based solely on the people they follow, and probably get a much higher rate of interest. Compared to other social display ads, Twitter ads, it is rumored, work extremely well.

While it is ostensibly a sharing service, [Twitter] is actually a broadcasting medium. People use Twitter more like they use TV; they follow accounts they are interested in, namely celebrities and companies, and then they consume the content as a form of entertainment. Normal people have very little incentive to use Twitter except to communicate unidirectionally with their interests. This is why it has been shown that the vast majority of Twitter users who sign up never tweet, even though a huge number of those people view their feed often."

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