Twitter’s Dick Costolo Wants You (And IFTTT) To Stop Blaming Twitter’s API Changes For Everything

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, who was speaking today at the Online News Association conference and awards, was asked to respond to the controversy over Twitter’s recent API changes, particularly the news yesterday that aggregation and discovery startup IFTTT was removing certain features.

Costolo’s response? First, he said he didn’t want to be “flip.” Then he said, flippantly, “It’s become a little bit of, you know, ‘I didn’t get my homework done because Twitter changed their API.'” In fact, he said the changes at IFTTT had “absolutely nothing to do with any changes to our API.”

We went into these issues in an earlier post, where we wrote that IFTTT appears to have been in violation of Twitter’s API for months.

Beyond the specific details of the IFTTT situation, Costolo was also asked if Twitter’s API changes are part of a general trend away from online openness. On the big issue, Costolo said he disagreed, and that people are always making generalizations like this based on “too few data points.” On the question of Twitter’s openness, he said, “We continue to spend an extraordinary amount of money providing a free API” that’s being accessed at “a ridiculous rate of queries per second.” As Twitter continues to build out its platform, it will do so in an open way, he added.

As for whether Twitter could have done a better job communicating the API changes, Costolo said, “If there are people who think we’ve done a bad job of communicating these changes and why we’ve made them, then it doesn’t matter whether I think we’ve done a good job.” In other words, if people think Twitter has done a bad job communicating, then it has probably done a bad job communicating.

At the same time, he pushed back against some of the criticism, including Anil Dash’s attempt to lay out how Twitter’s announcement should have been worded. Costolo said that Twitter did reach out to a number of developers for feedback ahead of the announcement, and Dash’s “rewritten post doesn’t communicate a bunch of things that developers said they cared about.” Costolo argued that “these things are always more complex than they sound” and he doesn’t intend to throw someone “under the bus” because the blog post was controversial.

We have another post covering Costolo’s comments on adding the ability for users to download all their tweets.

I’ve embedded the full audio file of Costolo’s keynote below. If you’re just interested in the IFTTT/platform stuff, it starts at about 25 minutes in and continues on-and-off throughout the rest of the conversation.