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Twitter Cracks Down on Third-Party Clients, ‘Flips the Bird’ at Users and Developers Alike

Twitter Cracks Down on Third-Party Clients, ‘Flips the Bird’ at Users and Developers Alike

A new post by Twitter’s Michael Sippey reveal new details on how the platform plans to change their API, and the news has been getting people fired up all across the interwebz – and understandably so, as the new API rules essentially cripple the market for third-party Twitter apps!

The new rules make a couple of rather concerning changes. First, the new API will limit third-party Twitter clients to a maximum of 100,000 total users before the developer must come crawling to Twitter to ask for more slots – which Twitter has the right to (and probably will) refuse. Clients that already have over 100,000 clients will be limited to double the number of users they currently have.

Yup. Developers of third-party apps are now at the mercy of Twitter.

As bad as that is, it gets even worse. Not content with merely crippling the growth of third-party clients, Twitter has also moved to cripple the usefulness of new and existing clients, stating that “Tweets that are grouped together into a timeline should not be rendered with non-Twitter content. e.g. comments, updates from other networks.” This could mean that “read later” functions tied to Instapaper, Pocket, or other services may not be allowed into any 3rd-party Twitter client from this point forward. It also rules out the possibility of clients that stream feeds from multiple social networks.

Long story short, Twitter has (1) crippled the growth of any and all third-party Twitter clients, and (2) crippled the usefulness of those clients to users. They’re strongly encouraging users to use their own clients, which are often seen as lacking features – and in some cases (like their Mac app), haven’t been updated in ages!

As their own chart admits, Twitter has waged a war on consumer engagement by third-party apps:

TheNextWeb sums the matter up nicely:

There’s no way to sugar coat it. These changes effectively kill off the growth of the third-party client ecosystem as we know it. Twitter wants people to be using its official apps and seeing tweets exactly as they’re displayed both there and on the web version of Twitter. This has a lot to do with features like Twitter cards and advertisements, which in turn have a lot to do with Twitter’s partnerships with media companies and brands.

At this point, it’s hard to imagine how continuing to developer Twitter clients is worth it to developers. Twitter is limiting their user base, and thereby limiting their profits, while discouraging them from providing the feature-rich experience that many users come to expect. Perhaps they’ve forgotten that their own app started out as a third-party app – Tweetie.

Worst of all, Twitter can change these rules anytime they feel like it, and flip the kill switch on any developer or app that doesn’t follow their “rules of the road.”

Pardon the pun, but that’s “flipping the bird” at users and developers alike if I’ve ever seen it – especially when their own apps provide such a sub-par experience compared to most third-party solutions.

For more details, check out Twitter’s official post. Macworld also provides a nice summary making sense of the new rules.



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