Just days after Ribbon was forced to withdraw the ability to make payments within tweets, Twitter has moved to stymie another startup’s ambitions to monetize its platform. This time it’s Flattr, the Swedish startup that was offering the ability for users to pay small amounts of money to others by using the Favorite action.
Flattr is an ‘online tipjar’ that has been around for a few years now but seemed to find a real focus last month when it began allowing users to ‘tip a dime’ to their favorite content producers using the ‘like’ or ‘favorite’ function on popular networks like Instagram, Vimeo, SoundCloud and Flickr. The most popular service supported was Twitter but now Flattr says that it has been asked to cease making Favorites pay.
The startup says that Twitter’s ‘Platform Operations’ team recently contacted it to tell them that they were violating the ‘Commercial Use’ section in the API ‘Rules of the Road‘. Specifically, ‘Advertising around Twitter content’, where it is stipulated: “You cannot sell or receive compensation for Tweet actions or the placement of Tweet actions on your Service.”
Flattr says that it agrees this is a logical clause “as it would stop companies (selling) retweets and followers.” However, the startup says that it believes it is in the clear here as it offers “a way to voluntary reward someone for something that they have created. It’s not even possible to use Flattr to pay creators to get a certain result.” Flattr says that it has tried negotiating an exception to the terms and offered to forgo its cut from each transaction, to no avail. “No one even wanted to talk to us in person, despite several contact points inside Twitter,” the startup says.
Flattr CEO, Linus Olsson tells me that Flattr hasn’t had its API access cut, it has simply been asked to stop with the threat that otherwise Twitter will “enforce its terms.” Olsson says that Flattr is going to look into a way of ‘Flattr-ing’ via @mentions to see if that is acceptable to Twitter.
Olsson adds: “We think it’s sad that Twitter’s actions again proves that they are not what they used to be.” While it’s easy to criticise Twitter for cutting off innovative uses of its API, this does look like a pretty cut-and-dried case of rule violation here. Twitter is yet to respond to our request for comment.
Whether deserved or not, it’s a blow for Flattr to lose support for a network as broadly used as Twitter. In the days when it relied on publisher-placed buttons to facilitate payments, it struggled to scale. Jumping onto third-party networks seemed like a clever way to kickstart broader use.
In better news for the startup, it has announced that YouTube ‘likes’ are now supported from today, and Facebook ‘Like’ support is in the works.
“We just need to make sure it’s possible the way we want,” says Olsson. “Facebook is a different kind of monster when it comes to content as there is a lot of reshares, posting of links, like-buttons in the wild etc. (There’s) a lot to dig into to make sure it works as we and the users expects it to do.”
Update: Flattr’s blog post on the issue is now live.