Today, Twitter announced embeddable tweets. Except, Twitter didn’t call them that. It called them “Blackbird Pie.”The news marked a new a low for Twitter’s product incompetence under CEO Ev Williams’s tenure.
Here’s how Blackbird Pie works.
Step 1: You see a tweet you would like to embed on a Web site.
Step 2: You copy that Tweet’s URL.
Step 3: You go to http://media.twitter.com/blackbird-pie/
Step 4: You paste the URL into a dialogue box.
Step 5: You click a button labelled “bake it.”
Step 6: Blackbird produces a string of HTML. You copy it.
Step 7: You go to your blog post and paste in the code.
Simple? Well, not compared to how we’ve always embedded tweets here.
Step 1: You see a tweet you like to embed.
Step 2: You hold command-shift-3 to screengrab it.
Step 3: You upload it in your blog post.
Oh yeah: You can also just copy and paste the tweet’s text into your post.
Besides being WAY too complicated, here’s what else is wrong with Blackbird Pie.
- Twitter justified its existence by saying that it would prevent people from being misquoted. Problem is, it’s very easy to manipulate Blackbird Pie code to misquote its source.
- If tweets are supposed to be embeddable, THEY SHOULD ALL HAVE AN EMBED BUTTON JUST LIKE YOUTUBE VIDEOS, EGAD.
- There’s no easy way to customise the code Blackbird Pie pumps out. What if you want the tweet to be 640 pixels wide?
- We tried using the embeddable tweets. Didn’t work. Didn’t work on TechCrunch either (see below).
- Blackbird Pie has already crashed.
The big picture here is that Blackbird is just one more indication that Twitter is in a product tailspin. Truth is, ever since Twitter “promoted” Jack Dorsey, the guy who created the product that is Twitter, out of the CEO slot and into the chairmanship back in 2008, that place has had zero clue about how to create and launch good products.
Until today, the very best example of this talent deficiency was the way Twitter co-opted an organic feature its community created, “re-tweets,” and replaced it with a different feature by the same name. (It’s OK that Twitter launched what are now called the “new re-tweet,” but — WHY — did it have to use the same name? Why couldn’t have called them “forwards” or something? Were they just being mean?)
The whole idea of “@anywhere” is a pretty good example of a poorly thought out product, too. Everybody blamed social media wonk Umar Haque for the product’s terrible launch during this SXSW keynote (he asked the Qs in a Q&A with Twitter CEO Ev Williams), but maybe the real reason the keynote didn’t make sense was that the product itself is an incoherent mess.The other really good way to see how bad Twitter is at product? Compare what it’s like to use Twitter on Twitter.com versus any number of third-party Twitter clients. From Tweetie (which Twitter recently acquired) to TweetDeck to Twitteriffic on the iPad, they pretty much all offer a superior experience.
But really, the huge issue is this: Twitter’s inability to conceive of and launch new products and product features would NOT be a problem if Twitter knew what it was: a lightweight status and notification service that is only as popular as it is today because it plays well with an entire ecosystem of Web, mobile, and desktop apps.
But Twitter does not believe it is that. By acquiring Tweetie and momentarily crowning an “official” Blackberry app — by declaring that useful third-party services like TwitPic and Bit.ly are just “product holes” to fill — Twitter has shown that it believes it is a social network, a destination site on par with Facebook.
The problem is that Facebook is getting good at product launches (Beacon was rough, but News Feed and Facebook Connect were great). Twitter, as we’ve demonstrated here, is not.
Has there ever been a startup that’s had so much success despite itself — despite its complete lack of understanding about how people use its service?
Let’s hope for Ev’s sake that Twitter ads work better than most Twitter products. Otherwise, he might be this generation’s John Sculley, the guy who took over Apple, fired its founder, launched a bunch of dumb products, and almost killed the company.
See Also: Twitter’s Road To $1 Billion