Twitter to IM: Drop Dead

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During Tough Times, The Echo Chamber Can Be Your Best Friend

It took a worldwide financial meltdown for Twitter to finally cough up the IM hairball. At BearHug Camp, I spent about 10 of the 30 minute executive visitation trying to pin down Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, and Alex Payne on when exactly Track and IM would be back, and in what order. Turns out the IM part isn’t coming back; it’s been moved from Broken to Build.

Evan Williams delivers the bad news with a refreshing frankness, suggesting the ROI of IM services for a small percentage of Twitter users puts it down the list below other more pressing priorities. And at the bottom of the email, he points at a fledgling third-party service that gives you a way of “tweeting” over the Jabber XMPP gateway. The author is mulling how to provide access to users’ follows. No mention is made of Track, of course.

Williams’ acknowledgment of the realities of surviving the viral success of a platform built on ideas but not necessarily execution comes not a moment too soon. Robert Scoble suggests in a Google Reader note that “Twitter is working on things to improve its already strong lock-in,” namely its dominant user base. But what this really does is focus pressure once again on Twitter’s business model, and begs the question once again why Twitter is taking so long to pass along permission to third parties such as Gnip to provide the scalable services the “small” minority of realtime users crave.

With Microsoft already releasing pre-PDC information about Live Mesh’s PubSub underpinnings, and many of the open source and hybrid third party services using Google App Engine and Amazon Web Services, realtime Tw*tter has a strong chance of surviving the nuclear financial winter. Startups need nothing more than Twitter’s permission and little or no venture money to enter the network of cooperating services.

Now that IM is dead meat, Twitter needs to clarify its deals with middleman services such as Gnip, and open up the kimono on independent developers locking down access. We’ll do our part to shine a light on these permissions or lack of them.

  • Alex Hillman

    While track isn’t officially supported, a stable bot called TweetTrak has been providing me with all of my track updates to SMS via direct messages. It seems that the Twitter team did a good job of helping this developer out when it came to sending direct messages past the normal threshold.

    This is why Twitter will win. Even if they decide that focusing on a feature doesn’t make sense for their internal roadmap, they’re willing to support third party developers using their APIs to create those features.

    • allgood2

      Thanks for the tip on TweetTrak, works like a charm. Glad to have my tracks back, even if it does mean more direct messages.

      • Melanie

        Alex Hillman, you rock! Love TweetTrack. Love, love, LOVE! :D

    • Alexander

      YOU SUCK!! please learn your technological words dumbass
      i would like to challenge you email me at

      All you haters i dare you to spam me i’m so technologically advance none of you haters can get their spams or viruses though!

      Fear my leet skills

  • Huh?

    Twitter has a business model? Did you pin down what that is?

    • No, he didn't

      No, he didn’t pin anything down. First he says it’s bad that IM has been dropped. Then he says it’s refreshing the way they said it. Then he says that Williams has “acknowledged the reality…of surviving the viral success…” etc. Then he quotes Scoble, incomprehensibly. Then he makes a link between the fact that Microsoft etc. are publishing API standards with “real-time Tw*tter” surviving the “nuclear financial winter” (I wonder what difference the financial winter makes, when Twitter makes no sales anyway?). Then he says Twitter needs to “open the kimono on independent developers locking down access”, whatever the hell that means. Then he promises to shine a light on “these permissions.:”

      Bottom line: As usual, it’s impossible to tell what the hell he’s said.

      • exactly

        I really have no idea why michael keeps this prick around, they’ve got to be really good friends

      • Get F*cked Steve

        I AGREE! Steve must be on crack. All of his articles are incomprehensible dog shit. Mike, do you have anything to say about this? I stopped reading TechCrunchIT because Steve just blabs shit about Twitter all the time – When the fu*k did Twitter become enterprise?

        How about replacing Steve with a real journalist that has clout and at least SOME idea of what enterprise means? Steve and his crappy “Gilmor Gang” podcast bore the living shit out of me and his posts make it seem like he had a stroke or that he donated his brain to science.

  • ALi R Khan

    Don’t worry, if Jack Dorsey is not doing this, Someone else will do it by using twitter API…TWITim is comming soon :)

    • Dustin

      I created this at the beginning of July.

      It’s curious that they mentioned, but not twitterspy. twitterspy predates and offers way more features. I’m quite sure they know about it as well.

      • Mike D

        TwitterSpy has been working great for me. It’s not real time (I see about a 10 minute lag) but I’m still getting a lot of value from it. Nice work Dustin.

  • cyza

    VEry interesting to see how twitter has been progressing so far…

  • Jim Connolly

    Nice post Steve,

    The Twitter business model fascinates me. It’s going to be really interesting watching the developments between now and the end of the year!

    Jim Connolly

  • Craig Overend

    Steve, while I’ve dumped Twitter, keyword search is the new track if only it was easy to subscribe to them and the results were timely…

    If you haven’t already read Roy’s(HTTP Spec ed.) take on pub/sub & Twitter, it’s worth doing so.

  • rbreve

    Why doesnt twitter charge for this? thats a business model

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  • sherif

    You can always try getting Twitter notifications by subscribing to the RSS feed via IMFeeds – which sends it to you via IM.. I did this for FriendFeed, and it seems to work quite well, here is how to do it:

  • Matt

    “open up the kimono”

    someone’s been eating too much sushi…

  • bud

    Twitter might be able to charge for the SMS IM version, but people are already getting reamed on SMS by the telcos. So ad model is only alternative for monetizing twitter outside of business to business services, charging for superscraping. But where will ads be? Twitter Search? On your Home page based on your tweet word cloud?

  • Cheney

    Can anyone implement re-captcha for comments here? Or delete comments that obviously just want to plug their There’s so much comment-spam on TC it’s annoying.

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  • Scott from VentureDig

    If Twitter loses focus on what’s really important–on what drives revenue–they could be gone in this economy. No joke. Not to whine like everyone else, but mistakes are not just learning experiences right now. They’re fatal

  • Dan

    I use this one (GTalk / MSN) —

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  • francine hardaway

    Twitter on mobile is going to get very interesting because of Verizon’s new fees on SMS. So this means you have to use a Twitter client or a browser (at least you do on the iPHone). I doubt SMS alerts from Twitter will last very long if other carriers start to charge the way Verizon is.

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  • Scott

    Im deserves to go down…nothing new in 15 years…bunch of clowns over there


  • Dan

    I use to update all my sites at once (including Twitter).

  • Ralf

    For Germany there is an alternative to Twitter called
    It is Laconica based and therefore open and free. It also fully supports XMPP/Jabber (and does this stable and reliable!).

    Come and give it a try (it is German though ;-) !!

  • Clyde Smith

    I gave up Twitter for Instant Psychic Communication.

    Workshop announcement to follow!

    By the way, my psychic communication list is opt-in but you’ve already done so on a subconscious level so we’ll take it from there.

    This just in:
    Regarding Twitter roi on feature x “puts it down the list below other more pressing priorities”

    What are their priorities again? I keep reading about unsupported third party services and things that stopped working.

    I guess I’m just not doing my homework.

    Oops. Gotta run! Incoming psychic bombardment…

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