Feature

Twitter’s rocky road to profit

The social network has millions of users but “hardly any revenues.”

Matthew YglesiasSlate.com

Twitter has a profit problem, said Matthew Yglesias. The social network has millions of users but “hardly any revenues.” Venture capital investors have so far been willing to fund its expensive servers, but they’ll soon want a return on their investment. That’s probably why Twitter announced last week that it would crack down on third-party developers who build Twitter apps, including those that let users bypass ads. The Web was outraged. Having an open, flexible interface that encourages innovation by outside developers has been key to Twitter’s rapid adoption; it also reflects the Internet’s utopian ideal. Yet in abandoning that openness, Twitter is “only doing what it has to do to build a successful business.” Plenty of other people—from app vendors to corporations that use the network for branding—are making money from the service, and it’s natural that Twitter wants a bigger slice of the rewards. But users see Twitter as a utility rather than as a business, and they feel betrayed. As more such companies mature, we’re likely in for similar “disappointment after disappointment.”

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