Twitter’s change is unfortunate

Twitter made a change in the last few days that’s going to contort the web outside of Twitter in a whole new way. Not that Twitter hasn’t done that before, they have. The 140-character limit forced everyone to use URL shorteners. After years of experimenting, I felt I finally had something that was fun and interesting, for me and for people who follow my links. Only to have Twitter nullify that by hiding my URLs and replacing them with the long and often very ugly URLs behind the shortened URLs.

To be clear, in the design of the web, the URLs were meant to be visible, but not in your face. Twitter changed all that. The URLs became the primary user interface for accessing web content.

Now they display my stories with the full URLs, even though they still route through my URL shortener, so I get the click counts. But I can see them changing that again, and replacing my URL-shortener with theirs. They now use theirs and mine. So there are three URLs in the mix: 1. The original URL. 2. My shortened URL. 3. Their shortened URL. What a contortion of TBL’s invention. And I’m sure there are more twists and turns coming.

To be clear, none of this should ever have happened. The URLs should not have been in the 140-characters of a tweet. They should have been transmitted as metadata, with all the other metadata that accompanies a message. We’ve been through all the arguments over and over, and that’s what it comes down to. They made a mistake, and the result was an ugly scar for the whole web.

Now, when I look at how Twitter is displaying my messages, I think I’d better change the way my CMS works, so my natural URLs are very short. All this movement, just to stay in place. The web, as an open platform, was much better without Twitter contorting it. I’ve been writing about this since the inception of Twitter, and they never respond. It just gets worse. If Twitter breaks, huge portions of the web will break with it. That was never the idea of the web.

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About Dave Winer

Dave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
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