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#OccupyTwitter Petition Seeks Open API Commitment

Since Twitter telegraphed its intention to tighten API policies, developers have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. Now a petition asks Twitter for a renewed commitment to openness--or at least a clarification.

Twitter must be aware of the economic effect of its actions, but weeks have gone by during which it has done nothing to clarify its intentions. He wonders if that is because Twitter's leaders haven't made up their minds; the rumors are true and they're preparing to do something awful while minimizing the uproar; or they just don't care who they leave twisting in the wind. "I can't think of another alternative, but none of them are good," Spivack said.

Twitter has made noises before about prohibiting other companies from creating new Twitter clients, Storify's Damman noted, but then along came Tweetbot, the popular Twitter client for the iPhone, and "Twitter didn't seem to complain about it." That just leaves everyone guessing whether Twitter's warnings are empty sabre rattling, or whether someday soon the ax will fall, he said.

Alfredo Gil, an online marketer with Likeable Media, said he signed out of concern for the future of the free and open Internet. "I think it's very dangerous for Twitter to become a closed platform like Facebook," he said. Many businesses have been built around the Twitter APIs, he said, "and it's scary to think that with a flip of a switch Twitter can pretty much make your business non-existent."

Spivack said Bottlenose's business is not 100% dependent on the Twitter APIs, although it does use them. If his company were to lose API access to the site tomorrow, his developers would find other ways to index Twitter content "but it would not be fun to engineer around that," he said.

Meanwhile, he refuses to live in fear. "A lot of Twitter API developers are afraid to stick their necks out. They think maybe Twitter will punish them. The atmosphere in the Twitter community is so negative because people feel they have marked their developers for death. So people are in hiding--they're afraid to speak up."

So why isn't he afraid?

"I think if Twitter's going to kill developers, they're going to kill us all--hiding isn't going to help," Spivack said.

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment on this article.

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard and facebook.com/thebyard

Every company needs a social networking policy, but don't stifle creativity and productivity with too much formality. Also in the debut, all-digital Social Media For Grownups issue of The BrainYard: The proper tools help in setting social networking policy for your company and ensure that you'll be able to follow through. (Free with registration.)

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