Site Meter

July 29, 2011

Topify to Go Dark as Twitter Claims Another Dev Victim

Back in 2009, Topify emerged with detailed Twitter follower notifications, which made the service useful at a time when Twitter's own notifications were text only and didn't provide any information about the user. Created by Ouriel Ohayon and Arik Fraimovich, the app made it easy to send direct messages through email replies and bumped up its feature set later in the year to include follower details in the subject of the messages after Twitter similarly went to detailed HTML in their own updates. But in the last two years, as Twitter has expanded its own feature set, the company has continued to have a rough time satisfying developers, who see changes made by the microblogging company appearing arbitrary and without warning.

Today, after a week's worth of frustrations, following a change to Twitter's back end which stripped required headers from emails available to developers, Topify said they are going to be shutting down the service, rather than chasing after Twitter's continued meandering API roadmap.

An unhappy notice from an unhappy developer.

In an email sent to all registered users, saying the service would be discontinued on August 5th, Arik wrote that the company had decommissioned "X-Twitter headers", pushing developers instead to the Streaming API. In Topify's case, Arik said, the only option was to use a "Site Streams" version of the API, which is in beta and has no exit date. With clear frustration, he said he was done playing around.

"Considering this last episode and other actions by Twitter in the past year, I have no desire to expriment with their beta offerings. Not only this can result in unstable service for you, they might just shut it down one day," Arik said. "Topify was conceived as a response to long frustration with useless emails. Emails that you couldn’t process from your inbox, emails that had very frustrating mobile experience. Topify was sort of experiment, to see if it can be done better. Judging by your response and adoption, the experiment was successful."

As Twitter has grown, and the user base has shifted away from geeky early adopters, Twitter employee Phil Pennock (@syscomet) said a higher population of their users are marking incoming email as spam, even if they had requested it themselves, making email for push notifications, unreliable. He adds in a discussion on the company's developer site, "Email based trigger notifications sound great in theory and work well at small scale, but there's too many parts in the control of too many parties to debug and deal with false signal feedback. You'll have happier users with more reliable software, by not relying upon mail."

With that move, Topify's users won't get the chance to mark inbound notifications as spam because the service will be going dark a week from today - just another chalk mark on the prison wall for developers who turned to Twitter as a platform during the service's lean days a few years ago.