One big change Jack Dorsey could make to get Twitter back on track

Generally speaking, incoming interim Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and outgoing predecessor Dick Costolo seem to have seen eye-to-eye. Dorsey even took to Twitter earlier this year to defend Costolo’s rein as CEO.

But there’s one point on which they seemed to differ: How they treat developers.

Dick Costolo took a lot of heat for Twitter’s 2012 decision to start putting limits on its API — the interface that programmers use to integrate their apps and software with web services.

“It’s become a little bit of, you know, ‘I didn’t get my homework done because Twitter changed their API,'” a frustrated Costolo said in an on-stage appearance circa 2012. In 2013, Twitter shut down that API entirely.

Where before, there was a growing ecosystem of popular, but unofficial, Twitter clients like Twhirl and Twitteriffic, now there was only and the officially-sanctioned mobile apps for iPhone and Android.

Twitter has reached out to developers more recently with the launch of the Fabric platform, but the damage to the company’s reputation as someone to build apps with is lasting.

But recall that Dorsey was Twitter’s first CEO. And in 2008, when the company was still brand new, and more concerned about not crashing all the time and less concerned about making money, Dorsey identified that API as a potential business driver for the company going forward.

In 2008, InformationWeek reporter Mitch Wagner wrote, “I asked Dorsey if that meant that Twitter was considering charging commercial users for the service, or charging developers for access to the API. He said no, but Twitter considers those aspects of its service to be pointers toward features that people might be willing to pay for.”

Dorsey himself is an experienced software developer, and seems to understand the way that opening an API can build value on top of a platform. Square, the payments startup he co-founded, has a Square Connect API for people to build apps that work with a merchant’s data.

Re-opening the Twitter API may not be an instant saviour to the company’s bottom line. But it could attract a lot more developers who could put the platform to work in new, interesting ways — and maybe fix some of the platform’s problems with trolling, harassment, and new-user friendliness.

And if Dorsey doesn’t do it himself during his interim stint, maybe he could leave a memo for the next guy or gal.

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