Is Twitter shooting itself in the foot?

Bambi Francisco Roizen · February 18, 2011 · Short URL:

By suspending UberMedia, is it sending a dangerous message?

(Updated with UberMedia's response)

Just a few days after UberMedia announced that it's raised $17.5 million from Accel Partners, and other well-known investors, its business model appeared to be unraveling before its eyes, even before it could put that money to work.

Twitter on Friday said it's suspended UberMedia for "violating" its policies around privacy, trademarks and monetization. Pasadena-Calif.-based UberMedia has created a service that is beginning to effectively monetize the Twitter ecosystem.

Several hours later, UberMedia's Bill Gross said in a prepared statement that Ubermedia was "immediately in touch with Twitter, and the changes they asked us to make were very small.  As a result, we have completed the changes, and new apps are currently being posted to their respective stores. Twitter has assured us that as soon as those changes were complete, they would reactivate our applications."

Additionally, UberMedia changed UberTwitter to UberSocial.  

The decision to suspends UberMedia in the first place seems to slap Accel Partners and Bill Gross, founder of UberMedia, right in the face, as UberMedia arms itself with a warchest to continue building out its Twitter apps. Already, it's reportedly in the process of buying Tweetdeck, and has consolidated a number of apps that account for up to 15% of the originating Tweets.

That's a lot of Tweets that UberMedia is responsible for. You'd think that would be enough for Twitter to think twice about making any public moves, like suspension. To be fair, in its prepared statement, Twitter's Matt Graves, said that Twitter has raised these issues with UberMedia as far back as April 2010.

While I'm not privvy to conversations, one could see how if you rolled the tape forward, UberMedia - which is also aggregating its own outlets across publisher sites for the distribution of Tweets - could eventually be valuable on its own. 

Still, is there a moral imperative here? Does Twitter have a responsibility to its ecosystem partners? Even if there's some issues they're right on, would'nt it be better to handle these kind of things over coffee vs over the media?

If they're saying, "Please, come and build businesses on our awesome platform," and then they turn around and try to destroy those who've helped them become a success, that's not good business. If I were a VC looking to invest in the Twitter ecosystem, I'd start thinking twice.

If people start thinking twice about building out the Twitter ecosystem, then they're left alone. 

Then again... is this just a very clumsy acquisition proposal on Twitter's part? 

Here's Twitter's full comment on the issue, provided by Twitter's Matt Graves:

"We often take actions to enforce these rules; in fact, on an average day we turn off more than one hundred services that violate our API rules of the road. This keeps the ecosystem fair for everyone.

Today we suspended several applications, including UberTwitter, twidroyd and UberCurrent, which have violated Twitter policies and trademarks in a variety of ways. These violations include, but aren’t limited to, a
privacy issue with private Direct Messages longer than 140 characters, trademark infringement, and changing the content of users’ Tweets in order to make money.

We’ve had conversations with UberMedia, the developer of these applications, about policy violations since April 2010, when they first launched under the name TweetUp – a term commonly used by Twitter users and a trademark violation. We continue to be in contact with UberMedia and hope that they will bring the suspended applications into compliance with our policies soon."

(Image source: Measuringupblog)

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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