Dev

Developer says Twitter should shut him down. He may be about to get his wish

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Myles Recny looked in the face of Twitter yesterday and said, “You should shut my company down.” Now, the social network is in talks with Recny about the app he claimed was “better than Twitter Ads.”

“Twitter reached out to me, as has the ad team at one of the other big social networks, and we’re trying to work something out,” Recny said today, in an interview with VentureBeat.

His app, Followgen, uses Twitter’s application programming interface to automate “favoriting” people’s tweets. A company signs up with Followgen and decides on a target market. The app finds relevant Twitters users and favorites some of their tweets. If all works according to plan, the person will be pleased at having a tweet favorited and then, in turn, follow the company’s Twitter profile.

Recny considers this a form of advertising. Instead of serving impressions, he’s serving favorites that convert into follows. And that’s why he wrote that Twitter should shut him down: His app may violate Twitter’s terms of service.

However, he believes that if he had legitimate access to Twitter’s special advertising API, he could make money for both companies.

“It’s been kind of an emotional roller coaster. I’ve been having uncertainty whether what I was doing was white hat or black hat in regards to Twitter’s Terms of Service,” said Recny.

Twitter has a habit of shutting companies like his down, particularly when they encroach on its business model. Instead of waiting for the inevitable, Recny explained to me that he tried to contact Twitter first by applying for the special API two months ago. He then reached out through friends who knew Twitter big wigs. Both attempts failed.

Only after he wrote the blog post yesterday did the social network get in touch with Recny.

“We both know how the dev ecosystem feels about Twitter right now, and it’s not a positive sentiment, is it?” said Recny. “People feel that their API access can be turned off for any reason. People feel like there’s no trustworthy channel in which to get in contact with Twitter.”

He says Followgen customers can expect one of three outcomes:

  1. Twitter will yank Followgen’s API access and he will have to shut down the company.
  2. Twitter will yank Followgen’s “favoriting” business, but give Recny its Ads API access to build something that will be mutually beneficial.
  3. Twitter and Followgen will figure out a revenue sharing partnership and keep both the favoriting product and a new Ads API-supported product on the market.

That last one, even Recny admits, is highly unlikely. But Recny is not without options. Twitter and the mysterious second social network could be interested in him as an employee on their ads teams.

We asked Recny if Facebook was the second social network to get in touch with him. He replied, “Would no comment be a comment?”

He leaves the experience having learned about the struggles of not only working with Twitter, but working with yourself. He says he would not recommend the solo-founder route, and would find a co-founder next time around. Or, at least, a co-working space with people he enjoys.

Twitter image via Andreas Eldh/Flickr


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