Twitter cuts third-party ads out of user timelines

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Giving another disruptive jolt to its ecosystem, Twitter has banned third-party ad networks from serving sponsored tweets in user feeds.

“We will not allow any third party to inject paid tweets into a timeline on any service that leverages the Twitter API,” wrote the company’s chief operating officer Dick Costolo in a blog post today.┬áThat may effectively leave a number of players like Ad.ly, Sponsored Tweets and 140Proof scrambling.┬áSponsored Tweets, a service that allows popular Twitter users to earn money by sharing commercial content, says it plans to get around the changes by having users manually enter the sponsored status updates. (It has a more automated system right now.)

Costolo said Twitter’s goal was to preserve a quality user experience and that third-party developers would maximize short-term profit at the expense of the ecosystem’s longer-term health. The company is concerned that third-party developers might start clogging users’ feeds with ads in order to make money, even as it drives users away.

Twitter’s move is likely to raise further concerns among developers who must make choices about how to invest their time and resources and what platforms to work with. If Twitter’s long-term trajectory isn’t clear, third-party companies like 140Proof may end up investing hundreds of thousands of dollars only to see their efforts go to waste once Twitter clamps down on their business model. Twitter acquired the maker of a popular iPhone app earlier this spring called Tweetie, raising similar concerns.

The problem Twitter faces is common to all technology companies pursuing a platform strategy. But other platforms like Apple and Google have well-established revenue models, making it easy for developers to identify what to avoid.


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