Everyone knows that the Web speeds up the metabolic rate of many businesses (not to mention lowering the barriers to entry for competitors, of course) but the story of Twply.com has to be a new record: going from hot startup to scapegoat to selling the business in less than 24 hours. It’s as though someone recorded a business developing and then played it back using time-lapse photography, like they do in nature documentaries, when they show plants growing, blooming and then dying in a matter of seconds.
I first saw the name Twply in my Twitter feed, when someone said they were using it to send @replies from Twitter to their email, and that it was “neat stuff.” That phrase was the giveaway though — within minutes, I saw probably half a dozen messages from friends that were identical, all saying that Twply was “neat stuff.” I decided to try the service out, but deliberately unchecked the box that asked me whether I wanted to promote Twply on Twitter after signing up; despite that, Twply auto-posted the same “neat stuff” message to my stream. Then I saw Robert Scoble mention that he thought auto-posting Twitter spam was stupid, and others started criticizing the spammy nature of the service. A discussion broke out on FriendFeed, and blog posts started appearing about it.
Within a couple of hours of my hearing about the service, someone posted a Twitter link to a SitePoint auction, which showed that Twply had been sold for the princely sum of $1,200 — according to the description, because the owners found it impossible to keep up with the demand for their service. And who were the owners? One blogger did some digging and came up with the name Conrad Barrett, who appears to be a high-school senior in Rochester, and someone else said that a coder named Raphael Caiexeta appeared to be involved as well. The latter has sold a couple of previous creations on SitePoint, including one called Twitter Unfollower.