Twitter today announced that they will be wrapping all the links posted on tweets using their t.co short URL. They are doing this with claims about better security but I feel that it is bad from the ecosystem perspective and user perspective. To be specific, it is both anti-competitive and anti-user.
Tens of millions of links are tweeted on Twitter each day. Wrapping these shared links helps Twitter protect users from malicious content while offering useful insights on engagement. All links submitted within tweets and direct messages, regardless of length, will eventually be wrapped with t.co.
Let me argue why this is bad in this post. Feel free to chip in with your own POV.
First let us look at the advantages of this move
- Like they have claimed, this will make it easy for them to offer better security
- It will help them offer better analytics to the users
- More importantly, it will help them monetize better (the bottom line behind this move)
Now, let me list out why I think it is a bad move
- It will kill with a single stroke many of the services in Twitter ecosystem (anti-competitive)
- For those brand conscious people, this takes away any opportunity to insert brands in their tweets (anti-user)
- Privacy conscious people usually use multiple services to reduce the impact on their privacy. This gives too much user information in the hands of Twitter which is bad from the privacy point of view. Especially, when Twitter is being used by revolutionaries around the world, too much information in the hands of Twitter is not desirable (anti-user)
- Ideally, a truly open platform is the best option for users. However, it doesn’t always happen because of user experience reasons. IMO, the user experience advantages gained by this move doesn’t alter the dynamics much because of existing offerings from the ecosystem players but it takes away the choice from the hands of users. (anti-choice)
- Yes, I agree that this gives Twitter better handle in preventing security issues but they can as well do it without having to wrap the URLs with t.co. In short, t.co wrapper is not a necessity for better security
Anyhow, I get a bad taste that Twitter is fast moving towards a walled garden approach like AOL and Facebook. The biggest attraction of Twitter is the open nature of the underlying platform. Whether Twitter agrees it or not, the ecosystem players have contributed significantly to Twitter’s magnificent growth. Taking a walled garden approach might backfire in the long run. In fact, I would even claim that Twitter was part of many revolutions around the world due to its open nature where plugging in services to avoid censorship was easy. By restricting the openness of the platform (I agree this move is in no way a big restriction but I feel it is indicative of a trend), they might end up making Twitter useless for future revolutions. I think they should do a rethink of their business strategy. What do you say? Feel free to add your thoughts.