What The Hell Is Twitter Thinking?
By Bob Fine
So much for a Happy Thanksgiving. After tearing my hair out for the last couple of weeks trying to figure out why I lost all the Twitter share counts on all our websites and content pages, and after some continued searching today, I finally found out who the culprit was. Twitter themselves.
You see, about two weeks ago, I noticed that the tweet counts on my social share plugin was no longer working. I had been using WP Socializer for a couple of years now, even though the developer had no longer been supporting it. So when I saw this problem, I assumed it was an API change the developer had not kept up with, and wasn’t going to update, since he abandoned it some time ago.
I did so some simple searching online at the time, but nothing showed up indicating that this was a widespread problem. I did some more research trying to find a new plugin, and finally settled on Monarch. It didn’t take long to get Monarch installed and working, and the share counts showing for Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest, but I was having the hardest time getting Twitter to authenticate and display the counts.
I’ve been going back and forth the last two weeks with Monarch’s support trying to fix it, and now I believe they weren’t aware themselves of the change or of the problem. 99% of the developer and publisher community today is still not aware of this change as I write this. So, it being Thanksgiving, and having some downtime, I did more searching, and finally found the truth:
Twitter engineering made this decision and they tried to explain their reasoning, but at the end of the day, this is a not a good decision. I have to wonder if Jack Dorsey was consulted at all on this decision. Probably not with all the IPO focus on Square.
For those have been aware of the change and now just learning about it, it seems that pretty much everyone is quite upset at this decision. I know I am. I’m livid. I’m frustrated beyond belief, and it’s a demonstration that Twitter (at least engineering) does not care very much about the impact on thousands of developers, and tens of thousands of websites.
Twitter and others can argue that the numbers don’t mean anything, or that people will get over it…but here’s the honest truth: The numbers are important, and for many different reasons. And as a small content publisher, trying to survive in a very competitive environment, those numbers do demonstrate some basic information. The popularity of a particular piece of content. The popularity of our site overall. Which content is performing better than others. The importance will be different for different people and companies, but it is important.
I started on social media with Twitter way back in March 2009. I held the first social media conference here in Washington that same year, and then launched the first print magazine about social media in 2011. Twitter has been my most favorite network to use, and it has produced the most traffic for our websites. But this really feels like a poke in the eye to developers and the greater publishing community. Whether Twitter wants to admit it or not, many of those developers, building third-party plugins to utilize Twitter, have greatly contributed to Twitter being a successful company. Why aren’t they listening and supporting the community that has supported them for so long?
I hope you’ll consider signing the following petition to request Twitter to turn the functionality back on with their commitment to continue officially supporting it. It doesn’t matter whether it was “officially” supported or not in the original API. It’s become a feature that many, many individuals and companies (small and large) have come to depend on.
I will continue to update this page as information develops.
Update #1 – 11/27/15
Other Found Coverage So Far:
Twitter Development Community Conversations:
A number of developers had reached out to Twitter on their developer forums looking for help and alternative methods. What I find disconcerting is how quickly Twitter would close the conversation and considered the discussion done, when it was clear many developers still had questions and comments.
I commend Lead Stories, LLC which has gone as far as to build a potential alternative for getting Tweet counts: Open Share Count. It will take some testing and input from other websites if this is a long term and viable solution.
Please consider posting one or both of the following banners on your website to help with the petition.