Looks Like the Ability to View a Friend's (Collective) Timeline on Twitter Is Going Away?

(Looks like it already has gone away–but I’m unsure if it is temporary or not.)

Poll: how many of you use /statuses/friends_timeline/user.format?

We’d still allow you to retrieve your friends_timeline for the authenticating user, just not the authenticating user looking at another user’s timeline. This latter method forces us to do a fairly complex query that, when not cached, can be pretty painful.

How many of you actually make use of this method? Should it stay or should it go? I can say that the equivalent view on the web is going away in all likelihood. You’ll still be able to see who another user follows, but not in timeline format.

I so want to be a fly on the wall at TwitterHQ. I’ve vented about Twitter performance before. Now they’re ripping out long-standing functionality like crazy (hi paging! wait, aren’t you a basic feature of every content-based site ever?), turning off IM for everyone* (supposedly over a single errant API user, begging the question, why not just ban that application until things are cleared up?), and getting really smarmy when accused of allowing abuse within their community.

There are two things I will say about the whole thing, 1) it is an interesting topic from a technological perspective, and 2) having multiple interfaces –web, (IM), SMS, API–even when one goes down, there are usually options (SMS seems pretty rock solid, and that was, admittedly, the original interface-of- choice, right?). Each interface has a unique user experience–since switching to an API client I’ve had to carefully adjust “followers” (as opposed to “notifications”)*, since the API-based client gets my entire timeline. When I step away from the computer, I only get “notified” (via SMS) on a much smaller subset of people–most of them local. The only issue is “tracking”–which only works when I’m on SMS, which is the opposite of how I would prefer (and this would be completely mitigated if IM worked for me). There is no API hook to get messages based on tracked words, however. It is a feature only baked into the messaging infrastructure.

  • If Twitter is a communications utility (as they claim) and not social software, then there should have never been this differentiation. All these people competing for followers is incredibly lame, IMHO. But then without the ability to follow without notifications, there would be less social software wankers and spammers (granted, most of them don’t use it as a communications utility, so in that sense it wouldn’t make a difference, they would still be doing what they’re doing) and therefore less traffic, and therefore less $$.

Will people begin to jump ship if Twitter continues to have downtime on the scale* of this past week? I’m not so sure. I imagine the people who would bail would be the very emotionally invested (all of us blogging about it), who have no where to bail TO, or the opposite–those who could care less either way.

  • No pun intended, I promise.

The biggest potential problem would be enough downtime that we get out of the habit; after all, there was life before Twitter.

Would people pay for a stable Twitter? I think so. If Twitter could create a scaling situation which favored paying users, or if someone came along with a Twitter copy that didn’t fail, there might be some opportunity there.