Flattr, a decentralized tip jar that lets you put any amount of money into an account in order to compensate writers, musicians, video producers, hilarious tweeters, and the like, recently announced direct integration with Twitter, so that you can send a little money to people (i.e. the artists who make the music you listen to for free), by simply favoriting their tweets.
However, Twitter took exception, and on Tuesday, forced Flattr to un-integrate with Twitter, meaning that you can no longer tip recording and other artists by Favoriting their tweets.
Twitter declined to comment to Evolver.fm (updated), instead pointing us to the terms of service for its API. According to what Flattr tells us, Twitter’s argument is that allowing people to compensate creators by favoriting stuff violates the part of Twitter’s terms of service that prohibits advertisers from trying to get people to perform actions on Twitter, whether anyone gets paid or not:
“Your advertisements cannot resemble or reasonably be confused by users as a Tweet. For example, ads cannot have Tweet actions like follow, retweet, favorite, and reply. And you cannot sell or receive compensation for Tweet actions or the placement of Tweet actions on your Service.”
Flattr says that enabling people to pay people by Favoriting tweets is not advertising, but is rather a direct payment mechanism. Nonetheless, Flattr offered to forgo its standard 10-percent fee for all donations made through Twitter, meaning that all of the money would go directly to tweeters. Problem solved? Nope. Twitter says that doesn’t matter.
“The term Twitter call to is a term about advertisement that states that we can not be compensated,” writes Flattr. “One can argue that we can not get money based on this clause. Even though we think that is not obvious. So we suggested to forgo our 10%, to not be compensated as a service. This would mean that the flattr donation go from supporter to creator in its entirety. That did not help.”
Twitter owns Twitter, and it can do whatever it wants with Twitter — indeed, this isn’t the first time it has stopped a company from mingling payments and tweets. So, why would it object to Flattr using its API to try to pay musicians and other creators? Again, Twitter said it couldn’t comment, but it’s possible that Twitter is planning something similar to what Flattr is doing, or else just that it is being really protective of its platform. Either way, the move could lend support for the idea that Twitter can’t be trusted as a neutral protocol atop which developers can build whatever they want.
It’s worth noting that there’s a workaround. If you install a Flattr extension for your browser, you’ll be able to send money to tweeters by navigating to the tweet and using the extension.
It’s not all bad news for Flattr today, however. The company added support for YouTube, as promised, so that all you need to do to send a video creator (or musician) a little slice of your Flattr account money is Like their video there.
These developments leave Flattr with the following services, should you decide to gas up your Flattr account with a bit of cash to reward people who make nice things on the internet: