Last Friday, a ton of popular Twitter clients including Tweetbot, Twitterrific, and Echofon were down. Users could not log into their accounts or view their timelines. At first, it looked like a bug in the Twitter API, but Twitter’s radio silence and new details indicated the company was deliberately limiting access to third-party apps.
Late Friday evening Pacific time, many users noticed that they couldn’t access their third-party Twitter clients. The app’s creators quickly acknowledged the problem and said they tried to contact the company.
A developer based in Japan noted at the time that many small Twitter clients worked without any problems. Many community members have speculated that it could be an issue with the API or that the company is limiting access to larger customers.
While developers and users expected Twitter to communicate with them in some way, the company and its new owner Elon Musk remained radio silent on the issue. However, the Tesla CEO has tweeted everything from the latest Launch of Falcon Heavy to increase transparency on Twitter by publishing information from the platform tweet recommendation code.
Internal posts on Twitter indicated that the shutdown of some third-party clients was a company decision rather than a bug, The Information reported over the weekend. The report says a project manager told the product team that the company had “begun work on communications,” but provided no timeline for formal, approved communication.
Since the beginning of the saga, many developers have expressed their frustrations on Twitter and Mastodon. Twitter creator Craig Hockenberry posted a blog post titled ‘The Shit Show’, in which he said, “I’m personally done. And with a vengeance.
Fenix developer Matteo Villa said on Twitter that he was considering removing the client from the App Store – which was working at the time of writing – because he feared the client might stop working at some point.
Tweetbot co-creator Paul Haddad even tried to get the app to work by uploading old API keys. This trick worked for a while and some people were able to access their accounts. However, users started hitting an API limit and the client was then suspended again.
iOS Developer mysk stated on its account that Tweetbot had reached the limit of 300 messages per 15 minutes – which was applicable for the old API v1.1 – for all users.
Previously, they created a demo client to show that the Twitter API was working and that third-party apps weren’t being suspended due to a bug.
A group of these developers were concerned about handling refunds for people who subscribed to pro or premium versions of their apps if Twitter banned third-party clients. It would also mean that their annual income would decrease and they would have to create new products without making any money.
The path to follow
Some developers have already shown their intention to focus on other projects. Haddad told TechCrunch via email that Tweetbot is focused on launching its Mastodon Ivory client — which is currently in closed beta — at an accelerated pace.
He said that currently the team is focused on improving the onboarding experience, then fixing bugs and getting an App Store release ready.
Villa has also released a beta version of its Mastodon Wolly client on Apple’s Testflight testing platform.
For some other developers, the situation is grim. As an iOS developer, Adam Demasi noted that some indie developers whose primary product was a Twitter client might face a tough time.
Since Musk took over Twitter last year, the company has shut down several developer-related projects, including Twitter Toolbox for app discovery. Some other programs in defunct status although the company has not announced any official closures. The developers have been cautious about their Twitter development plan given that the company hasn’t explicitly communicated its plans regarding platform support.
These types of moves have undone the work of the social network over the past few years to regain the trust of developers. Last month, Twitter’s former head of developer platforms, Amir Shevat, wrote on TechCrunch that the new management had shattered developer trust. This dubious suspension of third-party Twitter clients without any communication will not instill any trust in the community.
Leave a Reply