Just a few months ago speculation was rife about the adoption of the Twitter API as a de-facto standard for micro-blogging services. WordPress.com, Tumblr, Typepad, SocialCast, and Status.net all added support for the API, and the only change needed for Twitter clients to interact with these services was the ability to use a 3rd party end point. Accommodating different API endpoints should have involved only a few extra lines of code, but despite this, still very few major Twitter clients offer this functionality.
The situation has lead Matt Mullenweg, the founder of Automattic and the founding developer of WordPress, to conclude that:
The opportunity has passed for the Twitter API to become a lingua franca for the real-time web.
Matt points to this as a missed opportunity:
Because of perceived lack of market or a rush trying to keep up with each other and new features in Twitter’s API, like geo-location, we’re now close to half a year later and support for alternative endpoints in the major clients is haphazard at best
If any of the clients had added seamless third-party API support when the opportunity first arose we’d all be pointing to them and promoting them. Now we’re more in a situation where, like Twitter, it makes more sense to build and promote our own because our users are demanding a multi-modal experience.
One factor that has contributed to the lack of enthusiasm shown by Twitter client developers was the purchase of Tweetie by Twitter:
Although this is great news for AteBits (whose founder is ecstatic right now), this is horrible news for numerous third party developers (like Echofon, Twittelator, SimplyTweet, and TweetDeck) who may have to join the ranks of the gloriously unemployed in the semi-near future.
A similar scenario happened when Tumblr officially embraced Tumblrette on the iPhone (effectively killing off a number of Tumblr third party apps) and we will probably see deja vu all over again as numerous tweet businesses shut down early or let their apps slowly die on the app store.
While this may be a sign that the Twitter API won’t become a de-facto standard after all, as folks like Chris Messina point-out in the comments to Matt’s post, there are lots of standardization efforts from OStatus to ActivityStreams looking to bridge the gap to greater API and data interoperability.