Twitter is too important to be owned by Twitter

When I spoke on a panel at RTLM NY '11, I got a little rise out of the crowd when I said "Twitter is too important to be owned by Twitter." This is still absolutely true, and yesterday was a great example of that: the #fuckyouwashington debacle.

If you haven't heard, Jeff Jarvis started something on Twitter last night:

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Hey, Washington assholes, it's our country, our economy, our money. Stop fucking with it.less than a minute ago via Echofon Favorite Retweet Reply

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People, it's time to get fucking pissed off.less than a minute ago via Echofon Favorite Retweet Reply

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Can we start a Twitter chant: FUCK YOU, WASHINGTON! Pass it on.less than a minute ago via Echofon Favorite Retweet Reply

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Lots of people were talking about the possibility of a government default, but it ended up being a catch-all for any sort of venting that citizens had against their government. And they had a large variety of things to say. But then, of course, this happens:

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Search for trending topic Schmucks and then search for #fuckyouwashington. No comparison. Blowing past it.less than a minute ago via Echofon Favorite Retweet Reply

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As of right this second, when I search for #fuckyouwashington on Twitter, they're coming in at two or three a second. It's crazy. And it's really interesting to read what people have to say, pro and con, picking their own issues, all of that stuff. Yet, it's been removed from the trending topics.

Now, maybe this particular trend was simply blocked because of the profanity. Sure, whatever. I don't like that, but some might. And Twitter certainly allows all kinds of trends to stick around that would also be 'offensive,' for example, #babymakingsong, #turnoff, and #itsalwaystheuglypeople are currently trending. Don't even get me started on trends like #whatblackgirlslike #whatwhitegirls like and the other racially charged topics. Sure, fine, it's their site, they can do whatever they want.

That, however, is the root of the issue: they can do whatever they want. And we're all beholden to them. Nothing we can do. Maybe I'm not sensitive to four letter words, and I do want to hear about things like this. Too bad, Twitter says no. Maybe I don't want promoted tweets added to my stream. Too bad, Twitter says yes.

And that's why I'm feeling worse and worse about Twitter every day. It sucks, because I really like Twiter, the website. But Twitter, the company, really bums me out. They promised all of us nerds long ago that they wouldn't do this kind of thing, and they're not keeping that promise. Which means I'm not really getting emotionally invested in Twitter any more. It's still valuable enough to me to keep using, but I can't care about it the way I used to.

This is why we're still hacking away at rstat.us. If you haven't heard about it before, you can read my release announcement. If you're lazier than that, here's the summary: rstat.us is a distributed, open-source Twitter. You can use our public node at the website, or get your own copy of the code and run your own, make whatever customizations you'd like, and you're still on equal footing with everyone else in the network. We're on the cusp of a 1.0 announcement, and I'd love to have been able to make that in this post, but we're still working out some last kinks. If you've seen it before, you won't find much differences right now, but we have 100% standards compliance, a complete visual refresh, and some other fun goodies waiting in the wings, ready to come out shortly.

Just remember: if you use a service like Twitter that's controlled by a company like Twitter, you have to play by their rules. And sometimes, they'll change the rules, and it'll be time to move on.