Few internet companies or services or phenomena, if you will, seem to attract as many visceral reactions as Twitter. First there was the whole buzz about Twitter and Ruby on Rails, which always excites passions. Then the “Rails doesn’t scale” debacle. Next the “built wrong” accusations. Twitter even got some sprinklings from Zed Shaw’s spectacular departure from the Ruby scene. Then Twitter screws over their users and stops SMS service basically everywhere but the USA.
Recently Twitter indirectly angered another user community when they hired Rael Dornfest, creator of personal productivity apps I Want Sandy and Stikkit. The problem is that Mr. Dornfest decided to kill both services, altough he will take the “intellectual property” behind them to Twitter. Of course he is within his right to terminate a service that was free and under no promises, but all the users who had come to rely in these apps certainly don’t agree.
Sandy’s user community seems to be, by far, the most affected: messages at Rael’s “going offline” announcement range from the indifferent few to the truly upset, inflamed and disappointed at the whole Web 2.0 thing, specially Twitter. “Karma’s a bitch”, says one comment, and it’s true that Rael’s decision to leave users hanging out to dry will bring him and a whole bag of negative karma to Twitter. As another poster said, “I’d be weary of using any Twitter product with your name on it”.
Will Sandy and Stikkit return as twitter add-ons? possibly, but the real lesson to remember here is this: Twitter itself is also free, so it might go away at any time the creators decide it’s in their best personal interest to kill it and move on. So are most Web 2.0 apps. So if you must use them and learn to depend on them, you’d better make sure you choose the ones that, at least, let you get your data out when they die.