Twitter Shuts Out Third-Party Ads to Protect Promoted Tweets

Twitter May 24 said it won't let third parties inject paid tweets into a timeline on any service that leverages the Twitter API. The microblog's revised developer terms of service also say third parties must pay Twitter when its content is leveraged in an ad sale. The idea is to protect the Twitter platform and, specifically, Twitter's nascent Promoted Tweets ad business. The move comes after Twitter alienated some developers with its Twitter for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry apps.

Twitter May 24 sent out another warning to developers by vowing not to allow any third- party company or individual to inject paid tweets into a timeline on any service that leverages the Twitter API.

The move is outlined in these revised developer terms of service, which also stipulate that third parties must pay Twitter when its content is leveraged in an ad sale.

Twitter is protecting its new advertising business with these moves, explained Twitter COO Dick Costolo in a long blog post.

"As our primary concern is the long-term health and value of the network, we have and will continue to forgo near-term revenue opportunities in the service of carefully metering the impact of Promoted Tweets on the user experience," Costolo said.

"It is critical that the core experience of real-time introductions and information is protected for the user and with an eye toward long-term success for all advertisers, users and the Twitter ecosystem."

Twitter April 13 launched Promoted Tweets, which airs ads from Best Buy, Bravo, Red Bull, Sony Pictures, Starbucks, Virgin America and other partners as regular tweets at the top of relevant search results pages.

Eventually, these ads will be offered in the timeline. Users can reply to, retweet and favorite Promoted Tweets just as they can regular tweets.

By denying in-stream ads from providers such as, 140 Proof and any others who choose to provide them, Twitter is seeking to protect advertisers who want to promote themselves on the popular microblog, which boasts more than 100 million users.

"Third-party ad networks are not necessarily looking to preserve the unique user experience Twitter has created," Costolo explained. "They may optimize for either market share or short-term revenue at the expense of the long-term health of the Twitter platform."

By way of example, Costolo said third-party ad networks may seek to maximize ad impressions and click-through rates even at the risk of alienating Twitter users.

He also noted that Twitter has to bear the costs of maintaining the network everyone uses, including protecting the platform from spam and building out the service. Third-party advertisers don't have to pay these costs, which Twitter believes is unfair.

Twitter is instead encouraging those who want to advertise to do so around the timelines on many Twitter clients. "We don't believe we always need to participate in the myriad ways in which other companies monetize the network."

He also promised Twitter Annotations will yield additional business opportunities on the Twitter platform later this year. Search Engine Land has posted a FAQ about the new rules on third-party ads here.

This isn't the first time Twitter has made moves to better its business that could alienate third-party programmers.

The microblog acquired Atebits and subsequently made that startup's Tweetie application Twitter for iPhone. Twitter also released BlackBerry and Android apps.

Such are the drawbacks of Twitter opening its API so early before putting into place all of the pieces it deems important. Chalk them up to growing pains.