In case you’d not noticed, Twitter’s management are being jerks. New API rules have brought in arbitrary caps for third-party clients, and this has already impacted on Tapbots, who had to pull the Tweetbot for OS X alpha. Elsewhere, Twitter no longer reveals what client someone is using to post. These things are linked to Twitter no longer wanting competing clients at all. Instead, it wants smaller apps linking in to its system, in order to boost ‘social CRM’, ‘social analytics’ and ‘social influence ranking’. So-called ‘traditional Twitter clients’ are out as the company seeks to remove from the equation apps that ‘engage with the consumer’; instead, devs should ‘engage with business’, or provide business/consumer analytics. In other words, in order to control the Twitter experience and finally make some money, Twitter needs to run everything through its own clients, rather than enabling the third parties that created the service to flourish to also flourish, despite many of them defining Twitter standards—something Twitter itself didn’t do until surprisingly late on.
Right now, Twitter’s playing a cruel game—a death by a thousand cuts. Developer David Smith earlier today said we should “be considerate of 3rd party twitter developers by revoking access from apps you never intend to use,” thereby enabling them to claw back some room in their arbitrary Twitter cap. While it’s a nice sentiment, it starkly showcases the absurdity of the situation—users should not have to revoke app access, in order to enable an app to continue through people gaining access to unused slots. Most users won’t even know how to revoke an app’s access anyway.
It’s clear why Twitter’s taking this path, though: it’s relatively low-risk, spreading out the fallout over a long period of time where people are also hoping things will change. By the time Twitter does pull the ‘no third-party clients’ switch, it will undoubtedly issue a press release stating that only a very small number of people use them anyway, neglecting to mention those who’ve left the service because of being squeezed out, or those ‘forced’ to switch because yet another of the dwindling number of alternative clients by that point had been effectively killed by Twitter’s own rules.
I’d like to propose Twitter therefore at least be honest about the future.
At the end of June, we reported about how we’re working to deliver a consistent Twitter experience, and how we would introduce stricter guidelines about how the Twitter API is used. In order to achieve this and roll out all the exciting features we’re planning, we are going to transition our users entirely to our own Twitter clients.
On March 31, 2013, traditional third-party Twitter clients will no longer have access to the API. In order to facilitate the transition and ensure a consistent experience for our users, we will on or before January 31, 2013 be rolling out new Twitter clients for iOS, Android, OS X, Windows, Linux, Windows Phone and BlackBerry. We realise that client developers have made a huge impact on the service, and we’d like to thank them for their efforts, but we now have to move on and do what’s best for Twitter, thereby ensuring the service’s long-term future.
Brutal? Perhaps. Likely to piss off a bunch of people? Undoubtedly. But at least it’s honest and doesn’t leave people hanging on, hoping for a future that will never come.