Dear Twitter: You're a Utility - Get Off The Fence And Start Acting Like One

On Friday Twitter suspended UberMedia's UberTwitter, Twidroyd and UberCurrent apps for "violating Twitter policies and trademarks." Twitter continued: "We’ve had conversations with UberMedia, the developer of these applications, about policy violations since April 2010". UberMedia's Bill Gross then responded by saying the suspensions "took us by surprise". Huh? Wha? We're obviously not getting the whole story from either side, but it's clear Twitter had had enough of UberMedia's creative interpretation of their TOS to take a dramatic action to make their point.

The blogosphere is preoccupied with the notion that this is proof that Twitter is at war with the developer ecosystem and that they're somehow manipulating the playing field to favor their own homegrown apps. But that discussion misses the larger point: Companies like UberMedia are attempting to profit directly at the presentation and consumption end of the stream infrastructure that Twitter has bought and paid for. IMO UberMedia has the right to monetize "consumption environments" (their apps) that add value to end users. At the same time, Twitter deserves to be compensated for the utility they're providing to UberMedia. 

The only issue here should be: Who gets paid and how much?

Twitter is at an important inflection point. They need to come out and clearly articulate their position on attempts by outside parties to monetize the stream(s) built on top of their infrastructure. My personal opinion is that Twitter should construct a model whereby commercial “rebroadcast” companies like UberMedia can choose to monetize streams delivered on their platform(s) however they want, but they must compensate Twitter on some type of metered basis (API calls or other) for providing the underlying infrastructure that gives UberMedia the opportunity to monetize on Twitter's back in the first place.

At the end of the day Twitter is an information utility – they’ve admitted as much on several occasions. They should start acting like one and begin pricing their product accordingly. If not, we can expect more of these types of altercations going forward.