Twitter Flexes Muscles over UberMedia, Ecosystem Shudders

How Twitter is starting to behave like the auto industry. It's simply unbelievable.

Well, it’s happened. The worst fears expressed by Twitter ecosystem partners at last year’s Chirp developers’ conference are coming true: Twitter is starting to flex its muscles. Many companies have arisen in order to participate in the microblogging environment that Twitter spawned, but they are all completely dependent upon Twitter itself. So, when their strategic objectives collide with the 140-character behemoth, it’s clear who the winner will be.

On Friday, I saw some tweets early in the day that Twitter and UberMedia, a portfolio company with several Twitter application companies, were feuding, and that the former had shut off the latter’s access. I didn’t really dig into it at the time (lots else going on), but the problem became real to me by late mid-afternoon. I opened UberTwitter on my BlackBerry – the only Twitter client I’ve every enjoyed on the device – and was given the error message “Forbidden.”

Twitter may have reason to be nervous. UberMedia has been buying up companies, with TweetDeck its latest acquisition. It is growing in the Twitter ecosystem, and the “mother ship” doesn’t necessarily need the competition.

Out in the open, Twitter is saying that it cut off the company’s access because it didn’t like the use of “Twitter” in its name (trademark infringement issues were the given reason). But, I’m guessing there are deeper issues about the relationship, particularly as Twitter spent last year investing in growing its own presence with its end users.

Twitter is trying to retain as much control as possible over Twitter applications – UberMedia, which has renamed its BlackBerry Twitter client “UberSocial,” is currently seeking approval. Meanwhile, the redesigned Twitter.com (aka “the new Twitter”) has been a priority for the company, as it seeks to get more eyeballs (for monetization). UberMedia hopes to have an approved Twitter client out in the market soon, but the release date appears to be in Twitter’s hands.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/UberSoc/status/38778917661851648″]

In a way, Twitter is functioning like the Detroit of the social media marketplace. It is using its control to stifle innovation and prevent progress that doesn’t provide a direct benefit to the company. Think about it: the same rationale that has kept real innovation in environmentally friendly cars – not to mention cars with a range of other improvements – is now being brought to bear on the Twitter ecosystem.

I’ve used UberTwitter for a while now, though I did try the approved Twitter for BlackBerry app. I chose to stay with UberTwitter because of a number of features, such as the fact that it opens at the bottom of my stream and lets me scroll to the present, while Twitter for BlackBerry, like Twitter.com, opens to the most recent tweet in my steam.

For now, I’m back on Twitter for BlackBerry, until “UberSocial” makes it to market, at which point I’ll undoubtedly return. But, enough of my woes, there are greater implications, here, and social media market participants and spectators should be paying close attention.

Twitter, quite frankly, isn’t screwing around.

Nearly a year ago, the Twitter ecosystem was concerned about several developments related to the company’s business model (e.g., its advertising product, which was about to be announced), not to mention its acquisition of Tweetie, announced right before Chirp. Following a year of investments made in the platform to support monetization, take ownership of the user experience and consolidate its control over the Twitter community, we’re seeing what Twitter can do. Innovation could be at risk, as Twitter uses its position as the driver of an entire sector of application development – no doubt its right, as the company that made all the ecosystem businesses possible.

The question is one of consequences. I don’t see users abandoning Twitter over these moves – I, for one, was pissed, and I just switched clients, which was, I suspect, Twitter’s goal. But, the application developers that have extended the Twitter experience will continue to dry up, which could impede future adoption of the platform that has roughly 200 million users.

What do you think about all this? Leave a comment to let us know.