Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Topify Shuts Down, the Latest to Blame Twitter Developer Relations

Topify, a free service that embedded richer information into Twitter email alerts, will shut down on Aug. 5, its creator announced.

Topify’s Arik Fraimovich is the latest of many developers to blame Twitter for his problems; he said in a blog post that the fact that Twitter recently removed without notice the email headers he used to power his service was the last straw.

He clarified via email, “The main reason behind the Topify shutdown isn’t the technical change [Twitter] did, but the lack of communication before and after they did it and feeling that they don’t care about the smaller developers.”

Topify was a nifty tool that helped users manage Twitter from their email inboxes. After users set up their Twitter notifications to be sent to a Topify-managed address, Topify would augment each email sent by Twitter with user profile and other information, then forward the notification to a user’s primary email addresses and respond to commands sent back via replies to the emails.

So, for instance, if someone followed you on Twitter, you’d get an email with details about who, exactly, she is, and could quickly reply to that email to follow her back (see screenshot below).

Companies and independent developers who build on top of Twitter have repeatedly dealt with obstacles like policy changes and direct competition from Twitter itself — for example, Twitter banned rival ad networks last spring and launched its own photo-hosting service earlier this summer. (A far more surprising story is to hear that a developer or outside investor is happy with the Twitter ecosystem!)

So how is Topify any different? Asked about Fraimovich’s complaints, Twitter spokesperson Jodi Olson replied, “This is an unusual one, since headers included in emails sent by Twitter.com have never been documented/supported by the Twitter Platform, and are not part of the API.”

Twitter does provide support for some of the same functions through its beta Site Streams API, Fraimovich noted, and it has improved its own notification emails significantly in the two years since Topify launched.

However, Fraimovich argued in a developer discussion thread, that use of email headers “was a documented feature (at least in the old dev site) and not some hack.”

Fraimovich, who is based in Israel and co-founded Topify with Ouriel Ohayon, said he had intended to introduce a freemium model for Topify at some point but ultimately never made any money from the project. His costs were low, though, he said: Just server bills and his time.

Fraimovich recommended that Topify users looking for an alternative try a somewhat similar Gmail service called Rapportive.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald