Twitter’s API changes
I’m currently listening to Episode 92 of the Build and Analyze podcast with Marco Arment and Dan Benjamin. The general theme of the first half of this episode centred around the idea of taking a well-established company, such a Twitter or Dropbox, and turning them into a $40bn like Facebook, prompted by a discussion about how Twitter is currently making changes (Creating a “consistent” user experience; limiting the user-base to 100,000; making Twitter more app-agnostic).
Surely this means that any client like what we’re useful will become bland, and exactly how Twitter want it if the developer wants to stand any chance of being allowed more than 100,000 users by the all-controlling Twitter.
Maybe this will mean that the only innovation will occur in much more niche apps, such as perhaps those used by companies wanting to monitor public perception of themselves using a combination of the REST and Stream APIs.
Getting people to pay for Dropbox
At present I’m using 14% of the 3.5GBs of Dropbox storage that I’ve got without spending a penny, and I see absolutely no reason why, as an individual, I’d want to pay for a “pro” account, which is not really much more than a bigger bucket that I can chuck stuff into. Having one big lump of storage just doesn’t suit the way I like to work. Assuming Dropbox don’t make enough through selling their “team” package, and they don’t really have enough information about their users to sell well targeted ads (Even then they’ve got to manage to do so in a way that won’t piss off users and send them off to Google Drive), the only way they can ever dream of becoming a Facebook-esque $40bn company is by getting a lot more regular users to pay for their storage.
The most frustrating thing about Dropbox is that I’d love to use it all over my home directory. There’re so many folders within my Documents that could do with being accessible anywhere, but it’s a hassle to duplicate things into this seperate magic bucket, that syncs so seamlessly and without requiring any thought on my part. Why, oh why haven’t Dropbox allowed for multiple folders to be created wherever users want yet. I’d certainly pay for that, and I’m sure others would too. I only use the Dropbox web interface when I’ve got to access something in an emergency on an unfamiliar computer, and in that situation I don’t mind that my beautifully organised filesystem has been flattened so all my little buckets sit within the same root directory. I’d have (the one and only working copy of) my CV available whenever, without having to rember to copy-and-replace the version I currently have in
~Dropbox everytime I make a small change. I wouldn’t have to push git repositories to another location on the same harddrive just to get them to sync (For argument’s sake we’re going to assume that if I’m allowed multiple Dropbox buckets, I’m also allowed .ignore lists, so I don’t have to send all my intermediate files up to the cloud too) and I don’t need to synchronise throwaway files that I’m creating just to try something out quickly.
Will we have a new Facebook?
Twitter seems to be becoming increasingly hostile to developers, but without them it’s hard to see how it could become a sustainable big-money business. It needs to keep its users engaged, and without a variety of apps, and a seamless (ad-free?) way of consuming Tweets, I just don’t see them hanging around for too much longer.
I think Dropbox, on the other hand, has much more potential. If they can create a top-notch premium product, that they can sell to the masses, they stand a chance of moving on to bigger things. The logical next steps once there’s a bit more cash flowing in may well be to get Developers to use Dropbox more, perhaps by offering a Document-based storage API, so users can still feel in control of the files produced by apps whilst they’re simultaneously “in the cloud”.
But then you have to wonder whether it’s really in any of these companies’ interests to become a new Facebook. Afterall, things haven’t exactly been perfect since their IPO offerring, at least not financially. Maybe Dropbox is quite content providing free storage for the masses, and should Twitter just concentrate on their content, as after all, it’s that that’s king.