Together they stand. Divided they fall.

Social media. It’s all about sharing. Isn’t it? For the users maybe, but the news this week suggests otherwise – with Twitter and LinkedIn announcing the end of their partnership that started in 2009.

The bad news is Twitter has pulled the plug on its Application Programming Interface (API) for LinkedIn – which in simple terms means your Tweets will no longer show as status updates in LinkedIn (if you so desired). It’s a reminder that it’s not all love and hugs at the top between the big boys in social networking.

With 140 million users, Twitter’s meteoric rise over the last six years has sewn the seeds for various apps, tools and sites using the Twitter API to allow users to create, read and share their own and other Tweets in whichever way suited them best. Worryingly for them though, this all means things are getting a bit out of control and the most famous little blue bird is being overshadowed by those devilish third parties.

And Twitter had an answer.

Michael Sippy, one of the firm’s leading product managers, explained that it was quite simple. They wanted to make the Twitter experience as straightforward and easy to understand as possible – whether you happen to be on Twitter or anywhere else online, and to do this they needed to introduce stricter guidelines around how the Twitter API is used. Double speak if ever we heard it.

This puts a number of Twitter spin-offs on the chopping block – the likes of Tweetbot, Hootsuite and Seismic are likely to have to make drastic changes in the coming months and even FlipBook, whose functionality is largely based on pulling through Tweets and reformatting them, has seen its CEO questioning his dual position on the board of Twitter as they reach an impending collision.

So, maybe this whole social media thing isn’t about sharing after all?

The Twitter vs. LinkedIn scenario could just be the beginning of a movement by the big social networks to put up the barriers. As user numbers and profits grow, slowly but surely we will begin to see the world of social changing once again as captain commercialisation pops up his ever recognisable head.

The relationships that we see today and the integration that users of social networks enjoy may well slowly wilt as the dollar signs start flashing for shareholders. What, for example, is stopping Facebook cutting all ties with LinkedIn and creating ‘Facebook Pro’ – a spin off of the network specifically for your business contacts? Surely a $100billion company (well, nearly) is more than capable of this?

The real question is, as commercialisation of the networks starts to impact the experience of users, which arguably it already is doing, will the market open up for a new big player to unsettle the status quo all over again? And will the risk of severed relationships be the demise of the big companies that we know and love?

Only time will tell if Winston Churchill’s quote will ring true for good old web 2.0:

‘If we are together nothing is impossible. If we are divided all will fail’

By earnestagency 3 July 2012
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