I recommend Anil Dash's thoughtful post on the geek response to forthcoming changes in the Twitter service:
Geeks are lamenting that they don't dominate and control this network, and expressing it in the only way we know how: Through technological triumphalism. If the culture of a giant network doesn't resemble the culture we prefer, then it must be a problem that can be solved by making the network more technically complicated.
Head over to Youtube and watch "It's Toasted," the climax of Mad Men's first episode, and the scene that sets the tone for the entire series:
Advertising is based on one thing, happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It's freedom from fear. It's a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is okay. You are okay.
Twitter allows users to broadcast "I am okay" at a rate and reach heretofore not possible. By enabling this behavior, Twitter fills a very basic human need; it's a revolving circular walkway taking you and your friends' ego from one stop to the next where you can remind each other: "You are okay." Twitter's ad proposition is quite simple — they are going to interject a sponsored tweet into this conversation, encouraging you to feel warmly about the message carried in such a tweet.
In Anil's post from above, he also wrote:
Nobody wants a realtime cloud API company. I mean, I want one, but speaking from a statistical standpoint, that isn't what any normal person wants. For those who are geeky enough to want something, it ends up looking like Urban Airship or any one of the many other delivery as a service startups. Those realtime delivery thingys are awesome, but nobody would argue that they become the kind of household name brands that one represents entirely with a pictographic bird logo.
I agree - a decentralized clone of the Twitter API with an open-sourced version of a web template is about three weeks away if you can assemble a team of three to five focused programmers & designers building on top of established platforms like Apigee and Urban Airship. But then you've got to keep up with everything else Twitter has put in place that people take for granted: The best front-end & back-end teams under one roof in the history of the web, a research team providing continuous feedback to the product, marketing & sales teams about how people actually use the service, a deep bench of executives running outreach to sports, television and movie industries, and a lean but focused human resources department.
As Andre notes, there's another example of prior art that should serve as a cautionary tale for Twitter: AOL. The platform path is tough. What some geeks may be overlooking is that "real-time messaging" is table stakes in the media game — what makes Twitter successful is the two-thirds (or so) of the company that doesn't ever touch the command line. Twitter is laying bare intentions to make money by embedding sponsored content into an experience that users become attached to at an emotional level. Whether or not that ego-driven attachment is a socially positive activity is an exercise I leave for the reader, but I applaud Twitter for telling it to us straight.