Through a combination of luck, volcanoes and having a nice employer I found myself attending both Chirp, the Twitter conference and F8, the Facebook one. (Big blog post to follow on how much I fucking love San Francisco).
Both conferences announced some giant developments: Facebook’s Open Graph work is huge and Twitter’s Lots Of Little Lovelies approach tickled all the right nerd spots. Both sites rely heavily on their 3rd party developers, Twitter would be dead by now without them, and so these conferences really demonstrated the importance of these relationships.
The two social giants were keen to show how they were making life better for their developers, and how they dedicating their time to making the site a better experience. It’s an important thing. The three big social networks to disappear in the last year (Bebo, MySpace and Friends Reunited) all completely ignored their platform development, convinced that users would stay put and all they needed was advertising. It simply isn’t the case, it was easier to Google ‘MySpace McFly’ to find the McFly page than it was to use MySpace search; Bebo was inundated with spam and the curse of a thousand clicks in its user experience; Friends Reunited was… fuck, I’ve no idea, I think it’s the only social network that I don’t have an account lurking on.
The platform announcements from Twitter and Facebook this week could have easily just been press releases, or webcasts. They didn’t need to invite developers along, but (and I might be a little naive here) it hopefully shows that they’re as willing to listen as they are to brag.
At the end of each session there would be dozens of hands in the air, desperate to ask when a certain piece of functionality would be introduced. When would Twitter include a media sharing function? Why isn’t there a Facebook Mobile Insights tool? OK, so more often than not the platform guys wouldn’t have an answer past “it’s definitely something we’ve been thinking about”; but it did show a genuine enthusiasm from both parties about the development of the sites. How lovely.