co Twitter's Symbiotic Relationship |

How often is it that you hear a CEO or founder of a company admit they made a big mistake? That is, without also “proofing” their error with an explanation that makes the apology sound insincere? Not very often, right?

Well, Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter, recently said his company “screwed up” when it angered some developers for moving in on their territory. Wait a minute. Isn’t that the other way around? Didn’t the developers move in on Twitter’s turf? Frank Reed of Marketing Pilgrim makes it pretty clear that’s what he believes.

Ev Williams admitted that Twitter took on an entirely different persona than what was originally intended. That’s not altogether uncommon with Web companies. Once you release an API and allow developers to build apps that interact with your company, certain things are then out of your control. Nevertheless, it helps to put things into perspective.

At this point in Twitter’s history, it’s safe to say that Twitter couldn’t any more exist without developers and their third-party applications than developers could live without Twitter. They each have a relationship with the other that is defined, in part, by the other. Like a good marriage.

I don’t know where Twitter is going from here, but I hope they don’t turn their back on developers completely. Judging from Evan Williams’ apology, I’d say that won’t happen though he made it clear that developing proprietary technology currently provided by some Twitter apps isn’t out of the question.

Anyone building a Web company today has to understand that you are not just developing a product for end users. You are also developing a product for a community of piggybackers – called developers – who stand to profit from your creation but who also might contribute to your creation’s success. It’s a fair trade off. Of course, there are the self-serving types who don’t care if you succeed or not; they’re still going to take what they can and not care about giving. But even if the minority of developers are the good kind – the kind that add value to original creations – the aggregate truth is that rising tides raise all ships.

You have a symbiotic relationship with your third-party developers. Don’t forget that. Your end users won’t.