Something’s bothering me about Twitter for iPhone’s obtrusive, but now somewhat less obtrusive Quick Bar. It’s not the principle of adverising — ads put the bread on my table, too — or even the unavoidable placement at the top of the screen.
It’s the fact that Twitter is willing to be so obtrusive in the first place.
For years, Twitter was careful about its treatment of advertisements. On its website, Twitter never took the easy route of inserting ads directly into the Tweet stream. When the company finally rolled out ads on the website, they came in the form of “Promoted Trends,” a kind of sponsored trending topic. But even then, Twitter relegated them to a side column, denoted by a gold “promoted” tag.
On the new version of Twitter for iPhone, trending topics — some promoted, some organic — are right in your face. They can’t be hidden and they can’t be ignored. For advertisers, that’s great. For users, it’s a nuisance. But in terms of innovative approaches to advertising, it’s the end of Twitter’s cautious and calculated attitude.
True, today’s update to Twitter for iPhone makes the Quick Bar less obnoxious. Once you scroll down, the bar disappears from view. But the fact that Twitter had to make those changes represents a loss of innocence. The company that used to be so careful about advertisements just triggered its first bona fide backlash.
In a sense, Twitter pulled a Facebook, a company known for overstepping its bounds and then retreating when complaints get too loud. (e.g., privacy settings and sharing contact information with third parties). In Twitter’s case, the offense was obtrusive advertising instead of privacy. I hope it doesn’t become a pattern.