A Developer’s Perspective Logo

For many people, is a social network. In particular, it is seen as a Twitter clone. In reality, is much more. It is a platform and a series of APIs for creating social applications.

If you’re not a developer, that probably sounded like Greek. Imagine, for a moment, that Twitter is a kitchen sink. You turn on the faucet, and water comes out. What could be simpler? Behind the scenes, though, there’s a large amount of complexity. There are pipes that bring water to your sink. There’s a hot water heater that gives you hot water. Somewhere, there’s a well with a water pump in it. Twitter is not only the sink: it’s all of the infrastructure that makes the sink run. They have a public Application Developer Interface(API), which basically allows developers the ability to turn on the faucet.

Twitter owns all of that infrastructure, and over time, they have made accessing the data in their pipes more difficult to access for developers. They’ve set arbitrary limits on the amount of users a particular Twitter app can have, for example. This has led some developers, including myself, to lose faith in Twitter’s viability as a platform.

Continuing with the sink analogy, is pipes, wells, pumps, etc. Developers, using the APIs provided by, can build their own sinks. They can also build bathtubs, hoses, or whatever they can imagine. Sure, you can simply log into and use it like Twitter. has a public facing website at for just that purpose, and there are plenty of apps on most platforms to use in this way.

That’s not all is good for, though. Patter, for example, is a chat service that uses as its backend. has APIs for location tracking, messaging, and file storage. Given this combination, there are many social applications that can be built on’s platform. There’s been some discussion on Patter of using’s backend to write a replacement for Google Reader. There’s even a blog post about it.

I believe is underestimated. If viewed as a competitor to Twitter, it seems to be an underdog. But given the power of the APIs, I believe there is a strong possibility that we’ll see some exciting things in the future.

Joe Johaneman

Joe Johaneman is a writer and editor in Northeast Pennsylvania. He is studying Communications at Keystone College in La Plume, PA. Joe is also a developer and is currently working on an app for the Reporters' Lab RSS Reader Challenge. When he's not writing or coding, Joe is usually found reading and shooing cats off his laptop. He has the odd habit of naming his pets after literary characters.


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