Alex Payne

How app developers went from superstars to serfs

March 2, 2010: 9:30 AM ET

Once upon a time, app developers were the toast of the tech world. Now that there are 140,000 apps in Apple's app store and Twitter's open API has spawned 50,000 applications, have the app programmers lost their cachet?

On Saturday, Twitter employee Alex Payne posted a tweet praising site features that are being developed internally, and suggested that once they become publicly available, users might not want to use a desktop client anymore to manage their Twitter feed. Such software, like Tweetdeck, Brizzly, and SeesmicWeb, are  products of third-party developers.

The post disturbed some of those outside developers, who tweeted anxious responses. The tech blogs only fanned the flames. Twitter's Payne, an API developer, tried to calm everyone down by posting that the new stuff coming from Twitter's web client team uses the same data and API (application programming interface) methods available to outside developers. "It's going to inspire desktop app developers," he contended. Later he actually removed the contentious tweet that sparked the frenzy.

The situation underscores the tenuous relationships between the platforms and the developers who help them grow in relevance and popularity.


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