Nick Bilton, writing for The New York Times, comes up with a great metaphor for Twitter:
In 2006, a small restaurant called Twitter opened for business.
This wasn’t your typical restaurant. Twitter didn’t have its own chefs creating food. Instead, it invited anyone from the public to come into its kitchens and freely use the stove, pots, pans, plates and knifes. There, they could make little scrumptious bites for anyone to consume.
Soon, word spread, and Twitter was bustling with people making their own food. Others, hearing about the wonderful bite-size snacks being made at Twitter, came in to consume them.
Twitter grew so quickly that it started to have major problems dealing with all the customers. Twitter’s lights would often go out. Plates and silverware were often dirty. There was never enough room for people to sit. Sometimes, unable to handle all the customers, Twitter would just be closed for hours at a time.
So Twitter came up with a plan: it told people that they could take the food being made in Twitter’s kitchen and give it away by creating new places for people to eat. Twitter called this the application protocol interface, or A.P.I.
Soon there were food trucks, delivery services, meal messengers, all taking what was coming out of Twitter with its A.P.I. and redistributing it to people all around the world. Some of these distributors gave away Twitter’s stuff free. Others who had hired much prettier and reliable waitresses and delivery boys than Twitter started charging. As things grew, some decided to take hefty sums of money from investors to build specific businesses around Twitter.
Everyone seemed happy.
But now those food trucks are facing a problem: Twitter wants to cut them off. Read the conclusion to Nick’s piece here.