Exit This Way

Flipboard CEO Mike McCue Exits Twitter’s Board Just as Twitter Begins to Lockout Third-Party Developers

Is this the run-up to an acquisition?
 Flipboard CEO Mike McCue Exits Twitters Board Just as Twitter Begins to Lockout Third Party Developers

(Photo: Technmarketing.com)

The impact of Twitter’s API crackdown, it seems, has reverberated up to its board. Mike McCue, CEO of the Flipboard, the beloved news reader app, just disclosed that he’s leaving the company’s board, tweeting: “To the @Twitter team: it was amazing to be part of the board. You’re truly changing the world. Thanks @ev @jack @dick for the opportunity.” Of course, a former board member should know that CEO Dick Costolo’s Twitter handle is @dickc not @dick.

Some unresolved hostility would be understandable. After all, changes to Twitter’s API, documented in great detail this morning by AllThingsD‘s Mike Isaac, will likely mean that Flipboard will no longer be able to integrate with Twitter. In a separate post, Kara Swisher reports that Mr. McCue initiated the discussion about leaving the board. 

Clues to what lies ahead for Twitter’s platform, which is adopting a closed-off, “walled garden” approach, started to emerge with a brief letter on the company’s blog from Michael Sippey, VP of product, posted late in June. Third-party developers were left scrambling to decipher the opaque missive. As Mr. Isaac notes:

But amid the confusion of the past month, nearly all have overlooked the section of Sippey’s post which holds the key to Twitter’s future: Cards. Twitter’s new Cards technology allows third-party developers to create richer, more compelling — and, above all, visually consistent — content inside of Twitter itself.

Therein lies Twitter’s goal: A rich, consistent Twitter experience for every user. When the hammer drops and Twitter changes its guidelines, those apps that can’t deliver this consistency will no longer be able to integrate with Twitter. The most likely candidates to go first, according to multiple sources, fall into two camps: Third-party-client apps which essentially reduplicate the Twitter stream — such as Tweetbot, Echofon and Osfoora — and news reader apps like Flipboard, which re-renders Twitter data to create a different visual experience of a tweet entirely.

But it’s not merely a question of locking out Flipboard. Twitter has also begun to copy Flipboard’s primary offering: its impeccably-designed layout of articles, photos, and videos on your smartphone. In light of these developments, says Business Insider, the relationship grew tense.

However, there may be a possible upside for Mr. McCue. Ms. Swisher says, “Flipboard will either face increasing rivalry from Twitter or will end up as a possible acquisition target for it or other companies.” The list of potential acquirers might even include Twitter, which has previously purchased startups like Summify.

Twitter’s board has had a volatile year. Last September, Union Square Ventures’s Fred Wilson and Spark Capital’s Bijan Sabet, both announced their departure.

The news also comes amidst public disapproval of Twitter’s attempt to redefine itself as a media company, catering to its big brand clients and celebrity “VITs.” Twitter’s willingness to narc on an NBC employee has reframed this transformation less as a tech-to-media company, and more as scrappy, democratizing startup to corporate handmaiden.

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com