The real innovation of Web 2.0 (it wasn't all hype!) and the case for more open API's in Twitter clients

It's well acknowledged that markets are more efficient, and therefore create more value than non-markets. If I have 5 people bidding for the same project, I'm free to choose the best vendor for the lowest price. Without choice, then there's no virtuous cycle. I have to live with whatever there is.

Well, with Web 2.0, API's really do drive innovation. Because suddenly social media became pluggable. Twitter, Facebook, Ning, Digg, Reddit, MySpace, and even Google products can work with new products in ways their creators could not have anticipated.

We've seen this before. As Charles Mann points out in the recent article Beyond Detroit, the PC revolution was fueled by the interchangeable nature of every component of a computer. I could choose the best graphics card, whether it was ATI or Matrox or later on 3dfx or nvidia. I could get the fastest hard drive for the lowest price from Maxtor, Seagate, Western Digital, and the like. Intel vs. AMD vs Cyrix was another big decision. But everyone from hobbyists to the bulk buyers at Dell could choose the best. Because there was choice, everything got better and cheaper, faster.

Why? Standards. And we need more of them in Twitter clients. Right now, there are none, to the detriment of consumers and the Twitter ecosystem alike.

In Firefox, if I want to add a search engine, all I have to do is click the little tab and I can manage and add new search engines. The user has control. Yes, there are pre-set defaults, but it's not a closed system. If I want to use something, I can. It doesn't have to be in the box. I can add it myself.

The Twitter clients haven't done anything like this. Each list of URL shorteners, picture posters, and every integrated service is a custom list that is hand-picked by the creators. Arguably they have no reason to open this up. Exclusivity is power. In a selfish, self-interested world, each rational actor only has to act in their own interest.

Firefox allows plugins and modifications to their browser for critical features because they're a non-profit, and aren't bound by profit motive. Microsoft had to include the ability in Internet Explorer because the government forced them by rule of law in 2001 for being anticompetitive.

Somebody call Dave Winer -- we need a common standard and someone to rally behind! After all, Twitter is the new RSS.

Ev and Biz, maybe you can help? Twitter clients are playing in your playground. You have control of the API and ultimately you guys are the only ones who can make sure the playground remains a fair place for everyone to play -- not just the kids with extra money who can pay to play.