PeopleBrowsr Beats Twitter In Federal Court, Wins Costs, Hope (For All Third-Party Developers)

In November of last year, Peoplebrowsr, who make Kred (amongst other products), won a temporary restraining order (TRO) against Twitter after the latter terminated their longstanding relationship, which threatened to cut off PeopleBrowsr’s access to Twitter’s “firehose” of tweets.

Without that firehose, Peoplebrowsr doesn’t have much of a business. Twitter took the case to Federal Court, on the basis that “PeopleBrowsr’s complaint is based on federal antitrust law”, filing a Notice of Removal to have the TRO removed. It didn’t work. The Federal Court agreed with PeopleBrowsr, and the case is now returning to State Court, which gives PeopleBrowsr a much better chance of winning.

The Court, who regarded (and rejected) Twitter’s arguments as “novel”, stated that, “The fact that the removal shortly followed the state court’s issuance of a TRO suggests that Twitter’s decision to remove the case was born out of a desire to find a more sympathetic forum. Twitter’s removal lacked an objectively reasonable basis for seeking removal. It was based on a novel legal theory.”

The Court also granted PeopleBrowsr’s request that Twitter pay reasonable costs and expenses, including attorney fees, incurred as a result of Twitter’s “improper removal of this case”. In the meantime, Peoplebrowsr’s restraining order will stay in place, giving them continued access to the firehose, and next on the agenda is a state court preliminary injunction hearing.

This is all very interesting for a number of reasons. One, Peoplebrowsr are, so far, winning this case. If they do actually win (and that’s a VERY big ‘if’), then, two, that’s huge for everybody, particularly Twitter, because other businesses impacted by their (really quite aggressive) API revisions and restrictions will have some legal precedent to work with. TweetBot and Tweetlogix, two of my favourite iPhone clients, have had to revise their apps to account for the new user token limits imposed by the API 1.1 revision. Tweetro was completely crippled. Many others have been impacted. There may be nothing that can be done for these guys as they’re “Traditional Twitter clients” that absolutely belong in the upper-right of Twitter’s dreaded four quadrants, which means that they’re probably going to be toast, at least inasmuch as with what they’re doing now.

But it gives them hope.

And three? Something just feels right about this. Yes, it’s Twitter’s business and they can, of course, do what they want with their data (much like Facebook and the current News Feed shenanigans), and that includes kicking everybody else into touch. But that doesn’t mean that they should. And so much of what has happened since Twitter started clamping down on and revising its relationships with third-party developers has seemed off. For once, it would be nice to see a victory for the little guy. And Twitter hasn’t been that for a long time.

(Source: PeopleBrowsr.)