Way back in the spring of 2010, when Twitter was constantly under siege for “not having a business model,” I co-hosted “Chirp,” Twitter’s first (and I think only) developer conference. This was just two and half years ago, but it seems like a decade. But it was at that conference, in an interview with me, that then-COO (now CEO) Dick Costolo first laid out the vision for “the Interest Graph.” I wrote about this concept extensively (here, here, here), because I felt that understanding the interests of its users would be the core driver of Twitter’s long-term monetization strategy.
Fast forward to now. Twitter today announced its “promoted” suite of ad units may now be targeted by user interest, which to me is a long-expected move that should clarify to anyone confused by the company’s recent announcements (cue link to recent tempest). Twitter’s statements around its decision to sever ties with Instagram and Tumblr couldn’t be more clear:
We understand that there’s great value associated with Twitter’s follow graph data, and we can confirm that it is no longer available to (insert company here)…
In short, if you are a potential competitor, and have the resources, motivation, and potential to harvest the connections between Twitter users at scale, well, expect to get cut off. You’re a threat to Twitter’s revenue stream.
None of this should come as a surprise, if you’ve been paying attention. Back in 2010, the second autocomplete answer for the statement “I don’t get…” in Google was “I don’t get Twitter”:
Interestingly, today, the same search today shows Twitter has only managed to drop down to third, even though the company now sports 140 million active users:
And while one could argue that in 2010, it was consumers who didn’t “get” Twitter, perhaps the folks scratching their heads via Google now are developers, who of late have been concerned that building on top of Twitter’s APIs might be dangerous for their long-term livelihood.
Twitter’s announcement today clarifies things quite a bit. Twitter has already declared its distaste for any business that manages how people consume tweets. Today, the other shoe dropped: Don’t build your business leveraging Twitter if you plan to run interest-based advertising at scale. Of course, the entire traditional media business is driven by interest-based advertising, which means Twitter’s business development group has a lot of work ahead. Interesting times ahead, to be sure.