According to TechCrunch, Williams spent a bit of time talking up Twitter’s potential as a platform. In its early days, the social network had an uneasy relationship with the apps that developers attempted to build on top of it, posing restrictions that led many to abandon the platform. That approach “was a strategic error that we had to wind down,” he said. “But the story that [third party developers drove] all this growth and innovation for Twitter was completely overblown.”
For all its handwringing about its missteps, Twitter has been notoriously unclear about how it plans to embrace the future in a way that will allow it to aggressively compete against Facebook and other rivals. In October 2014, it rolled out Fabric, a modular, cross-platform development suite that was supposed to attract developers in droves. But the offering didn’t seem to catch fire with the development community, and discussion about Twitter as a robust app platform seems as muted as ever. (Although Twitter engineers developed the popular Bootstrap front-end framework in-house, in 2011, the project was open-sourced, and isn’t a major element in Twitter’s current technology stack.)
Twitter’s next offering for developers—whenever it actually arrives—could represent a make-or-break moment for the platform’s future, at least from an applications standpoint. If the network offers new features or even a redesigned experience, in a way that allows developers to profit, then its early crises will truly be a thing of the past. But if Twitter can’t make a compelling argument for its platform (and satisfy developers that it won’t slam down restrictions on their apps), then it could find itself at a serious disadvantage in the ecosystem wars.