Twitter bans third-party ads

Social networking giant Twitter has announced it will no longer allow third parties to introduce paid tweets into any service using the company’s API, effectively banning the practice altogether and threatening the viability of several start ups.

The company has announced in a blog post it will update its terms and service document to include that it will not “allow any third party to inject paid tweets into a timeline on any service that leverages the Twitter API”.

The announcement comes after Twitter announced the introduction of its own paid tweets last month. This service will allow companies to purchase tweets which will appear at the top of search results, designed to promote certain types of discounts or features.

However, a number of third-party companies have built their own types of paid tweets for users. Some of these third-party networks, such as Adly and TweetUp, use algorithms to be pushed to the top of search results pages.

These companies are the target of this latest move. Twitter has said it will no longer allow any of these third-parties to inject paid tweets onto any service which users the Twitter API – including smartphone and desktop apps.

Chief operating officer Dick Costolo wrote on the official blog the decision was made to preserve the “integrity and relevance of the timeline”.

“Third party ad networks are not necessarily looking to preserve the unique user experience Twitter has created,” the post said.

“They may optimise for either market share or short-term revenue at the expense of the long-term health of the Twitter platform. For example, a third party ad network may seek to maximize ad impressions and click through rates even if it leads to a net decrease in Twitter use due to user dissatisfaction.”

The exception to this rule will be the company’s own paid tweets feature. Costolo wrote in the post it would be unfair for Twitter to bear the costs of these third-party paid tweets without gaining revenue from them.

“It is important to keep in mind that Twitter bears all the costs of maintaining the network, protecting the Tweet stream against spam, supporting user requests, and scaling the service.”

“Indeed, Twitter will bear many of the support costs associated with any third-party paid tweets, as Twitter receives support emails related to anything a user sees in a tweet stream. The third-party bears few of these costs by comparison.”

While Twitter is seeking to protect its new revenue source, some developers have lashed out at the decision. Founder of the Nambu Twitter client, Eric Woodword, told Mashable the decision was an example of the company taking everything for themselves.

“I don’t understand why anyone would continue to develop on Twitter’s platform as anything more than a hobby. First it was us (Twitter clients), and now it is the ad platforms’ turn. Next it will be somebody else.”

Additionally, Moluv director Maurice Wright said it was difficult for him to stomach the decision after being convinced his third-party ad network would be left alone.

“It’s the fact that I’ve been participating in events, developing, networking, and building a team all year AFTER getting affirmations from individuals at Twitter that I had nothing to worry about in building a Twitter advertising platform… I understand the need to tidy up from time to time. But this was more like sand-blasting the living room in order to do some dusting.”

However, developer Adrian Duyzer from Desion Initiative also told Mashable the decision shouldn’t have been unexpected, and that developers are at the mercy of the technology they use.

“We’re all vulnerable to the whims of the people who build the operating systems, the browsers, heck, even the protocols. The important question probably comes down to ability and motive: Can this platform be turned against me, and do those who control it gain some advantage from doing so?”

Costolo said in his post that while the new terms of service will prohibit activities for which some companies have invested a lot of capital, there will be new opportunities in the future.

“Companies will emerge that provide all manner of rich data and meta-data services around and in tweets. Twitter clients could begin to differentiate on their ability to service different data-rich verticals like Finance or Entertainment.”

“We hope that this clarity of purpose, focus, and roadmap helps point a clear way forward for the thousands of companies in the Twitter ecosystem.”

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