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Twitter Shows Third-Party Services Its Dark Side

Twitter's own analytics tool, just released in alpha-testing, is the latest move giving third-party Twitter piggy-backers a headache. In the past year, Twitter has caused similar trouble for link-shorteners, photo providers, and mobile clients.

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Twitter is testing a new analytics product among a select group of users—and for free. Is that the familiar death knell for third-party app providers we hear?

"This first group of testers includes users who have worked with Twitter and are doing interesting things with their Twitter accounts," Twitter spokeswoman Carolyn Penner tells Fast Company. "We're experimenting with tools like this to give users insight on how to make their Tweets more compelling for Twitter users, and we don't have a timeline for wider distribution."

Many startups have grown around providing Twitter users services they wanted, but that weren't available through Twitter. The service generates an enormous amount of data that can be useful in promoting people and brands, but since Twitter didn't initially make this data user-friendly, apps emerged on desktops and smartphones allowing for easy, fast photo-sharing, URL shortening and tweet and retweet tracking.

In April, though, Twitter began providing its own versions of some of these services. Some 15 apps and services suddenly faced a direct challenge from the mothership. More recently—in September—Twitter changed the way it authorized third-party apps, suddenly breaking services beloved to many, like TweetDeck.

Now it's companies offering social "business intelligence" that are facing demise. We've covered a number of them here: Trendrr, for instance, and Visible Technologies; Sprout Social is another. These services still add value, since they monitor more than Twitter, and they offer analysis on more than just your Twitter account. But the trend is apparent: To the extent that startups build their business on something that Twitter can do itself down the line, or now, their business models are unsound.

Asked about this idea, Penner points out that Twitter is partnering with third-party services. "There's a strong corporate demand for better monitoring and analytics tools, and we want to help developers take advantage of this significant opportunity. For example, it was announced today that we partnered with Gnip, which will sub-license access to public Tweets and give developers an efficient way to access the Twitter stream for analytics purposes."

Many of the companies who supposedly got "screwed" by Twitter over six months ago are, in fact, still around, though they may not be as successful. As Twitter grows, further attempts to monetize (making good on its $3 billion self-valuation), and brings more services in-house, the true innovators will be sifted from those who were simply piggy-backing on Twitter's popularity and open architecture.

[Image: Flickr user charlietphoto]

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