Twitter is cutting deals with 3rd party providers of services that re-syndicate Tweets online, the company announced today, and the first one is Austin, Texas based Mass Relevance. Mass Relevance has access to the full Twitter fire hose and offers its customers a filtering, curation and display technology to add Tweets about a TV show, political campaign or other event to their web pages.
The potential for syndicated Tweets is big, but hopefully Twitter won’t go after everyone else in the world who puts Tweets on other websites as a part of their business. The company doesn’t seem to be welcoming interested parties to license those rights either. We’ve asked Twitter for comment on the prospect of enforcement of the prohibition against unofficial resyndication of Tweets (who said this stuff was free as the wind?) but haven’t heard back from the company yet.
Mass Relevance looks like a cool service, it seems pretty straight forward. There’s no indication of how much the company paid for the right to resell Tweets, but they probably paid dearly.
Twitter as a developer platform has traveled a rocky road, lots of highs and lots of lows. Enabling serious business use of Tweets is going to be an important next step. Hopefully that will happen in a way that’s accessible to small developers, in order that those developers can create the fabulous things that a broad ecosystem can come up with better than a limited set of high-end companies will.
Writing on the Twitter developers’ blog, Twitter’s Jason Costa wrote today, “Expect to see additional partnerships of this kind as we look for new ways to help everyone get the best out of Twitter.”
ORLY? That doesn’t sound like “click here to buy a license.” That sounds like Twitter is going to drive this themselves, the company is looking for new ways to help everyone get the best out of Twitter. Isn’t the lesson of a platform though that no company will ever be able to discover as much innovation as a larger ecosystem of independent developers will?
Am I the only one feeling uncomfortable about this?
The legal tussle between App developers and patent trolls doesn’t seem to end. The newest addition to the list of patent trolls is Kootol, an India based company, which has sent legal notices to a number of companies including App development firm Iconfactory – developer of Twitterrific – a popular Twitter app.Â Kotool software claims they infringe on a USÂ patentÂ for Twitter style real time feeds.
Even if App developers are not infringing on these patents, it is very difficult for them fight a case in court and pay fees for a lawyer. So unless a big company with loads of cash like Apple backs them up, they have no choice but to spit out the money, hungry patent trolls demand.
The good news till now for developers outside US is that these lawsuits have remained confined to the United States. As aÂ precautionaryÂ measure to avoid any legal issues with firms like Lodsys, independent developers in Europe are pulling their apps from the USÂ App Store as well as the Android Market.
Simon Maddox is one such developer who removed all his apps from the US App Store and Android Market. He doesn’t loose out on much since most of his revenue comes from UK.
Shaun Austin, another UK based developer tweetedÂ “selling software in the US has already reached the non-viable tipping point”.Â Removing apps from the US store is only a temporary solution for European app developers, since it won’t take long for these lawsuits to reach European shores. Kotool Software hasÂ already filedÂ for the realtime feeds patent in Europe, Canada and India.
This is just a few people echoing sentiments of an entire community including not just developers but even users, who see patents not protecting but in fact killing innovation. Legal notices and lawsuits weren’t all that popular in the age of desktop apps, but with the goldmine that mobile applications are, we see firms that do absolutely nothing jump into the scene to get a share of the pie.
Taking advantage of the ambiguous language of the patent, we see firms claiming infringement for something as ridiculous as a “Get full version” link within the app.
The only solution seems to beÂ softwareÂ giants like Apple, Google and Microsoft stepping up to protecting their developers with their big bucks. We have already seen Apple taking a stance against Lodsys, but a lot of these companies including Apple are busy fighting theirÂ ownÂ patent wars.
Independent developers have released some of the top selling apps and games, killing such innovation is bad for the entire community.
What’s your take on the whole situation? Â Shout out in the comments section.
As tech companies fight for ubiquity, it’s no surprise that there should be disputes like this. Using common words for product names is always a risk, as is establishing generic traditions (like Apple’s “i-” prefix) that are difficult to regulate. At stake today is Apple’s trademark on “App Store,” which as I’m sure our readers are aware, was established in 2008 as arguably the first real marketplace through which independent developers could offer mobile applications, games, and so on.
They filed for the trademark at the same time. Since then, however, it has been contended by Microsoft in particular that Apple has no exclusive right to so generic a term, one which arguably could apply to any other mobile application store. It’s as if Kleenex trademarked “tissue” as well. Apple just turned the argument around, however, noting that Microsoft itself is maintaining a plainly generic term for its most prominent product: Windows. Windows, as we all know, are both transparent portals allowing light to pass from outside to inside, and a visual metaphor for navigating a computer operating system.
It’s a point worth considering. But not the only one.
Apple has a strong case: “App Store” was more or less popularized by them. There were no competitors for some time so “App Store” referred only to Apple’s for quite a long time. “App Store” is also (they say) a “double entendre” meant to evoke the Apple Store. That one surely got some eye rolls in the industry. Still, the term wasn’t chosen arbitrarily. And competitors have options, as evidenced by the names the likes of Google and RIM have come up with.
Microsoft’s claims are equally rational, though: can you really trademark such a broad term, just by being the first one there? “Any secondary meaning or fame Apple has in ‘App Store’ is de facto secondary meaning that cannot convert the generic term ‘app store’ into a protectable trademark.” In other words, “App Store” didn’t blow up because of Apple, but because it’s the term anyone would reach for when describing something of this type. It’s telling (but not legally obligating) that every similar service could also be called an “app store.” Observe this beautiful Venn diagram:
Surely that counts for something? The counter-argument is, of course, that we use that term now because it’s the term Apple made us use. It’s a chicken-egg argument of innovation or imitation. Let’s be honest, though, in the tech industry that’s rarely much of an argument. 99 times out of 100 it’s imitation.
Apple’s jab at Microsoft over the term Windows has slightly different factors, but it really is remarkably similar. Like Apple, Microsoft popularized but did not invent the “window” method of navigating a file system. You’re viewing this in a window, though you may not be viewing it in Windows. But Microsoft doesn’t go after people who say their application or OS opens a window, though there are equally applicable words: viewer, panel, tab. But “windows” are hardly a selling point now for OSes, and of course if Apple decided to change the name of OS X to “Windows OS X” because it has windows, Microsoft would have kittens.
Perhaps Apple can lay claim to popularizing the word “app”? That’s questionable. It’s just a diminutive of the term application, a term in use long before.
Furthermore, doesn’t the App Store operate under the umbrella of the iTunes Store? Look, in iTunes there’s an “Apps” section, next to Music and Movies. It’s not a separate store, really, any more than the music and movies sections are separate from each other. iTunes helped popularize online music ownership, yet Apple didn’t attempt to trademark “Music Store.” Isn’t it analogous?
There are numerous examples of trademarks becoming common words: Lego, Frisbee, Tazer. But these are nonsense words. They don’t refer to what they do. Apple seems to be attempting to do just this. It’s not clear whether Apple’s trademark is lawful, right, both, or neither. It’s a very nuanced issue. My personal opinion would be that “App Store” was generic to begin with but only had a sort of frosting of originality on it. But it’s a distinction of exceeding niceness, and a little argument might sway me the other direction.
What do you guys think? Is this a pot and kettle situation for Microsoft, with its Word and Office trademarks, or is Apple overreaching?
Portland, Oregon is known for many things but one of them is its availability of public data. When the local government included listings of 429 pieces of public art in the data it made available to independent developers, Matt Blair took the logical and admirable step of turning that data into an iPhone app. The Portland Public Art Finder makes it easy to discover and learn about murals, sculptures, installations and more.
It’s a great way to learn about those works of art you might see regularly but never know the story behind, or to discover new gems in your or a new neighborhood. Blair told Mike Rogoway of the Portland Oregonian, who wrote about the app first, that he had no idea how much art was around town before seeing the data made available. Talk about augmented reality! What city wouldn’t benefit from apps like this?
The app makes it easy for users to submit suggestions for new listings to be included and Blair says he’ll be adding more over the coming months. While the map makes class and race differences all the more evident, it’s great to learn about the few murals where I live and I look forward to using this app on a walking tour downtown soon.
It’s not hard to imagine integration of check-in apps, Wikipedia links, public commenting and shared discussion of works of art, their meaning and history. So much is made possible when geocoded data becomes programmatically available.