Twitter pushing clients out of the market

I don’t often have occasion to read the Twitter API Terms of Service but this tweet from Jason Calacanis prompted me to take a look.

One part of the terms that grabbed my attention was aimed at third-party Twitter clients such as Tweetdeck, Seesmic, Hootsuite et al.

You may not pay, or offer to pay, third parties for distribution of your Client. This includes offering compensation for downloads (other than transactional fees), pre-installations, or other mechanisms of traffic acquisition.

Source: http://dev.twitter.com/pages/api_terms

This effectively prevents any third-party Twitter clients from making deals with mobile, tablet, or PC suppliers to have their software installed prior to customer delivery. Only a client like HTC’s Peep will be put on as default choice as it is made by the supplier.

This does smack a bit of the whole Microsoft IE anti-competition debacle. There are some differences clearly, but it signifies a shift from “friendly twitter” to “evil twitter”. Twitter owes a lot to many if these clients, who made the service easier to use in the early days, and lead it in directions it hadn’t thought of. Twitter wouldn’t have the scale of adoption it enjoys today without these clients, as the original web interface was extremely limiting.

Twitter should stick to running the service and managing the stream, and let the competition between the client developers push forward innovation. Hell, they should actively encourage it.