Twitter apologizes to, tries to woo back, developers

CEO Jack Dorsey uses Flight conference for his mea culpa

jack dorsey twitter flight

Jack Dorsey, Twitter's newly appointed CEO, took to the stage at the company's developer conference today and basically asked programmers for forgiveness.

"Somewhere along the line, our relationship with developers got a little bit complicated, a little bit confusing and little bit unpredictable," he said in the keynote of Twitter's Flight conference in San Francisco today. "And we want to come to you today, and first and foremost apologize for the confusion. We want to reset our relationship and make sure we are learning, that we are listening and that we are rebooting."

That, Dorsey said, is what the Flight conference is about.

While the second Flight gathering is about developer-focused news, Dorsey emphasized that it's also about creating an "open, honest and transparent relationship" with developers.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, praised the Dorsey statement as a way to try and reset developers' expectations and mend fences now that Dorsey is firmly in charge.

"This was Dorsey's mea culpa," Kerravala said. "He's letting developers know he hears them and he's willing to address their issues.... Developers are the way the Twitter universe can be expanded and if they feel they're not valued or being heard, they might not work with Twitter anymore."

Developers have been frustrated.

Three years ago, the company blocked third-party developer access to Twitter's main API -- something akin to throwing a bucket of water on third-party Twitter clients and apps that fed off the micro-blogging site.

That move affected a lot of developers, but there have been other, smaller slights to developers over the last several years, according to Brian Blau, an analyst with Gartner.

"Most of the troubles have been centered around smaller issues, ones that focused on ease-of-use, productivity and completeness of platform," he said. "Over the past five or more years, Twitter has adopted, changed, morphed, deprecated, and encroached on many aspects of the developer platform. Its been a tough road."

Those actions, according to Blau, showed that Twitter wasn't putting developers first -- even though some of Twitter's development partners have been itsbiggest boosters.

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, said Twitter's "schizophrenic" relationship with developers have made programmers skittish about making any big bets on the company.

"Twitter needs to let developers know exactly where they fit and where they don't," he said. "If they don't fix this, they will find fewer and fewer developers to carry forward Twitter's innovations. Without this, Twitter will grow more slowly."

To help appease developers, Dorsey and his team today made several announcements aimed at making their jobs easier.

Twitter talked about updates to the Fabric development platform, easier sharing from apps, and better analytics of Twitter data for information about the people using their apps.

Moorhead said the announcements won't be enough to earn back developers' trust. Blau, however, thought the announcements could start easing tensions.

"Twitter appears to be taking a new approach at the Flight conference," he said. "There's been a continual stream of announcements about improvements to Twitter developer tools, and many of those new technologies and products fill in holes and help developers with more than just tweets. And they are providing app developers with a core suite of tools that will help them on their overall app strategies."

Dorsey also noted during his keynote presentation today that developers can use the hashtag #HelloWorld to send in their feedback.

The company, according to the new CEO, will listen.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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