July 21, 2008

TweetMeme Returns Following Months-Long Twitter-Forced Outage

The on again off again cold war that Twitter has been having with its development community has been the subject of much discussion over the last few weeks, especially with the news of reduced unauthenticated API calls, and the new integration of Gnip. But even as Twitter is appearing to get its footing, significant damage has already been done to many services that relied on the microblogging service to survive. One of those was the popular link tracker, TweetMeme, which returned to the Web over the weekend, after months of the service being unavailable, not thanks to developers' neglect, but Twitter's restrictions.

TweetMeme launched in January, gaining significant coverage in the blogosphere, including an article in TechCrunch, who gushed, "The killer Twitter-tracker just arrived and its name is Tweetmeme". But by May, Twitter, under incredible pressure, started disabling developers' access to Jabber and XMPP services, which knocked the service off the Web.

See: Tweetmeme Down Due to Twitter Jabber Problems

At the time, the downtime was expected to only last days, but it turned out to be months.

Service founder Nick Halstead, also the author of Fav.or.it, wrote in a comment on this blog Friday, "Our side project http://www.tweetmeme.com which was the first twitter URL tracker has now been down for months because we were offered the use of the XMPP feed and by the time we had implemented they pulled it. We will not bring it back up again or put development effort into it unless these kind of restrictions are a thing of the past."

The XMPP firehose has famously been limited to only four partners - FriendFeed, Zappos, TwitterVision and Summize, plus Gnip this last week. And Tweetmeme couldn't play on the uneven field, shutting down. But as of yesterday, Halstead reported his team had a work-around, essentially piggy-backing on the search capabilities of Summize itself, now owned by Twitter. (Confused yet?)

Tweetmeme is back in operation now, aiming to show the most popular shared links on Twitter, highlighting the biggest stories on their front page, like Techmeme does, and showing them in order of appearance on the Tweetmeme river, just as Techmeme's river does.

Now that Tweetmeme is back in action, the questions remain - will traffic return, remembering the site's out there, and can it deliver relevant results worth following, as Techmeme has proven it can? And will following Summize's lead be good enough, or will Twitter change the rules again? Hard to know, given the microblogging giant's inconsistencies. That's why many developers are bailing on Twitter altogether.