Since launching TechcrunchIT we have been pounding away about open standards and data availability. One of the biggest victims of this focus recently has been Twitter, who went from being a leading light in the field, to closing everything up and now finally today have gone back to being open again. Gnip has announced this morning that they now have access to the Twitter XMPP feed, and that they will be re-publishing it and making it available to everybody.
We first wrote about Gnip when they launched. At the time they supported a large number of data providers but the obvious missing provider was Twitter, who had at the time shut off access to their XMPP ‘firehose’.
This is an important move for a number of reasons. First, it allows users to access their data from any other application including IM – its no longer up to Twitter in terms of what can be done with the data, which should result in some interesting applications and mashups. Second it better establishes XMPP as the standard for communications messages on the web. Previously applications integrating with Twitter were polling its API and checking for changes every x minutes, much like RSS. You only have to look at the widget in the sidebar of this very blog to see the problems with that – the requests are throttled, data is dropped and it results in 98% of traffic to a server not actually carrying any data. With XMPP and the push model, all that is redundant. XMPP is the HTTP for communications on the web, and soon we will look back at the days of polling a web service and wonder what the hell we were smoking.
Last of all, this is a perfect case study for the next applicaiton built in terms of what to do and what not to do. One of the biggest drivers of user adoption at Twitter was the large number of applications that were available to give users access to the data. This opens up user choice and a market around a platform, and the only way a firmly established platform can be displaced is either that a better solution comes alone, or more likely, the platform owners theselves screw it up by demanding too much from users.