In 2010 I launched this site as my first SaaS project (not that I would have called it that then) because I’d built some cool features on top of Twitter and wanted to share them. Over the years it was an excuse to dabble with various techniques and technologies, and it was a fun thing to maintain on behalf of a few paid subscribers, but mostly for myself.
Over time Twitter’s own feature set gradually grew, things like search were added (though it would take a while for the indexing to evolve to the point where it really worked) and the usefulness of TweetVault began to diminish. Tweets grew longer, embedded media got more complicated, and the time I had spare to keep making updates to support those improvements grew smaller.
Twitter as a whole was changing, too. Its exploding popularity changed the nature of our conversations and our audiences. A massively expanding user base required stronger policies and policing of hate and abuse, and Twitter’s leaders failed pretty much every challenge to provide features to further that safeguarding and protect its users. Abuse on the platform became rampant and we invented entirely new cultural modes of bullying and harassing those we disagreed with. It became sport to invade the spaces of complete strangers who previously thought their audiences small and unremarkable, blow them up across the Internet for a few hours because of some perceived infraction, and ruin their lives. Twitter Inc., whose only way to placate its investors was to grow larger at any cost, continued to drive “engagement” using features that directly encouraged pile-ons, unthinking amplification and abuse.
An orange ballsack was elected President of the United States and used the platform to attack women, racial minorities and anyone else he cared to, incite nuclear war with North Korea and encourage an attempted insurrection in Washington DC. Twitter invented a new “newsworthiness” exemption to their abuse policies and declined to evict him from the platform until he was safely out of office, after a four-year term of hate that Twitter helped create and sustain.
Through all that I watched people I knew get drawn into the undertow of pointless drama, noise and loathing. First they observed, then they mocked, then they got down in the mud and participated. And I realised, far too late: this is a waste of my time.
TweetVault’s usefulness reached its end but I thought it was worth keeping around for old time’s sake. I no longer think that. I will no longer do work that adds value to the Twitter platform, no matter how trivial that value. I will no longer build products on top of the Twitter API.
Working on TweetVault over the years and seeing it used by real people out in the world, especially strangers, has been a real thrill. Profound thanks to everyone who used it (and parted with actual money to do so), worked with me to incubate new features and fix issues, and let me know what the service meant to them. Thanks to my former colleagues who put up with “the perennial example project” during many a team meeting.
I miss the community I left behind on Twitter. I don’t miss Twitter. Twitter is a poison from which I am now recovering. We will all be better off when it no longer exists.
See you on the next thing,