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Twitter offers embeddable tweets, complicated for a reason?

Embedding individual tweets

Yesterday, Twitter alluded to a big announcement that they will offer embeddable tweets so users could refer to individual messages on Twitter without the hassle of taking screenshots of the message, uploading to a blog, adding links, etc.

Today, Twitter announced how users will be able to embed tweets with their new service “Blackbird Pie.” With Blackbird Pie, users can copy and paste the URL of a specific tweet (found by clicking the time stamp of any tweet) into the code generator, then users copy and paste the code into a blog post.

What Blackbird Pie looks like in use:

What Blackbird Pie looks like when embedded:

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My thought: it’s stupid and overcomplicated

So instead of just adding an “embed” button like this…

…Twitter has decided to “make it simple” and offer a new service on a new website that asks you to hunt down the URL of the specific tweet, copy and paste it into the other website, generate an embed code, then copy and paste THAT into your blog. It sounds stupid and overcomplicated to me, just give me a frickin’ button.

Here’s the rub- Twitter can do what they want, I’m actually excited that they’re doing something with the millions of dollars that they’re oozing, even if it’s not innovative… at least it’s something. But Twitter isn’t being honest about their reasoning for offering Blackbird Pie, the embeddable tweet website. Twitter isn’t admitting that they’ve lost control over trending topics, rendering them useless, and I believe this is one way for them to replace trending topics with “most quoted tweets” or something similar.

Twitter isn’t being honest that this is a move to get a better grip on data and how it is being used because currently, the third party sites have taken away the ability to analyze data simply because desktop apps, mobile apps, third party apps all skew the data of actual Twitter use. Embedding tweets gives a unique data point for Twitter to measure and there’s nothing wrong with that, but don’t call an overcomplicated process “simple” when that’s a thinly veiled reason for releasing a product.

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Twitter isn’t doing anything wrong, but they’re not being honest with the reasons behind their new project- I don’t suspect ease of use is anywhere near the top of the list, there are many more reasons that trump that and the public will remain in the dark.

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Robert Quigley

    May 5, 2010 at 12:29 am

    Great points all the way around, Lani. Twitter is fumbling around. The lame “retweet” feature and these recent enhancements all seem pretty weak. The best innovation in Twitter’s functionality has come from third parties.

  2. Julie Gomoll

    May 5, 2010 at 7:41 am

    I read the headlines about Blackbird, but hadn’t gone to check it out yet. I figured it was a plugin. I cracked up when I saw that big honking block of code in your post. I suspect you’re right, Lani — this isn’t simplifying our lives, it’s giving them something to measure.

    So, will you use it?

  3. Bryan McDonald

    May 5, 2010 at 7:42 am

    I agree the process was overcomplicated. Thank goodness it didn’t take long for someone to create a bookmarklet that only takes 3 steps to create an embeddable tweet instead of the 8 steps it took with Twitter’s Blackbird Pie. TechCrunch has the story:

  4. Colleen

    May 5, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Nice. I’ll be using this. An embedded tweet will certainly help in supporting blog entry content.

  5. Matt Stigliano

    May 5, 2010 at 10:09 am

    @LaniAR – I’d rather take a screenshot – I can do it in a few seconds and it’s just as easy.

    Good point about trending topics. I was semi-enthusiastic about the idea of localized trending topics, but they proved to be worthless and had little to do with anything localized.

  6. Mark Jacobs

    May 5, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    Great Post

  7. ~Angela

    May 5, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    I certainly agree that they could have made it a whole lot easier by adding an embed link. I’m guessing that they may at some point make this available as a web services, which could be why they chose to go with a different domain. Did they have to do it that way? No, of course not.

    As for the code that they generate, it’s not quite what you think it is. They’re not using any JavaScript, so there is very little that they can track. They can track the usage of your profile image and your background image from that code and that’s about it. (They can of course track the usage of their form to generate the code.)

    So it doesn’t look to me, like they’re looking to “get a better grip on data”, etc. because if that were their goal, they would have given you a script tag. Now, if they’d done that it would scream of tracking and what some of us geeks would do is get the HTML/CSS code their script would have generated and just used that (in order to avoid the tracking).

    Why did they do this in the first place? My theory is, that someone saw the abundance of twitter screenshots there are out there on all the various blogs and news sites and realized that it was a golden opportunity to get more inbound links. (That’s really important in the world of Search Engine Optimization.)

    I imagine facebook and others will probably offer similar embed tools. It’ll be interesting to see if BlackBird Pie takes off.

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