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Thoughts on Twitter banning Third-Party apps

App Icon for Tweetbot for Mac

I have been a long time Twitter user. I signed up on January 28th, 2007. Over the last 16 years I have posted just over 160,000 tweets. Some of these have been retweets of others, some have been links to posts here and elsewhere, and even some have been original thoughts that I have had over that time.

Many of the features that are absolute necessities of today’s Twitter did not come from the company, but by its users. Two primary examples are replies and retweets. Early Twitter users would reply by putting the user’s name at the beginning of a tweet to reply to them. For retweets, they would put "rt" at the front of the tweet. In fact, the word ‘tweet" was coined by the users, not Twitter itself.

Early into Twitter’s life they created an Application Programming Interface, or API, that would allow people to create clients for using twitter. This could be a web app or even an app for devices like the iPhone. There were many early apps, like Echofon, Twitterific, Tweetbot, and of course Tweetie.

Tweetie would be purchased by Twitter and become the official Twitter app. Tweetie implemented one thing that has become absolutely essential for many iOS apps, pull to refresh. Yes, pull to refresh came from an app.


The Timeline

On January 12th, at approximately 7:30pm Central Time, Twitter revoked the API keys for a few of the big apps, most notably Tweetbot and Twitterific. At the time many wondered if this was a mistake, or if there were issues with the API. Twitter did not provide any response until 5 days later, on January 17th, when the TwitterDev account finally posted.

Twitter is enforcing its long-standing API rules. That may result in some apps not working.

Yesterday, January 19th, Twitter quietly updated its developer terms of service that now states:

You will not or attempt to (and will not allow others to…c) use or access the Licensed Materials to create or attempt to create a substitute or similar service or product to the Twitter Applications;

From Paul Haddad, founder of Tapbots.

This effectively means that all third-party Twitter apps are dead, which is an end of an era. The impetus is likely to push people towards the official Twitter app,


The Problem

It is fully within Twitter’s rights to not allow third-party apps on their service. There is no argument about that. What is unsettling is that there was ZERO warning. Not even a week’s warning, the keys were just revoked. To exacerbate everything, it was the lack of communications that was the most frustrating.



The bigger issue is that for these are small companies, and likely account for a vast majority of, if not all, of the company’s revenue. For some developers, they do have other apps that can help supplement the lost income from losing third-party subscriptions. I know my Tweetbot subscription is coming up for renewal and I am fine having it renew for another year, even if it is just to help support Tapbots for the time being.


My Future Usage

Since the third-party apps have been disabled, I have not posted to Twitter, on any of my accounts. This is because official Twitter app is just bad and to me is too busy and unusable. The state of the official app has long been one of the reasons why I use a third-party app, the third-party apps were just more reliable and usable. I am not going to say that I am never going to use Twitter again, but I do not think I will use it much going forwward. I do still use it but mostly for direct messages.

In a week of not using Twitter, I cannot say that I miss Twitter. As has been said by many, Twitter is just a giant rage machine. It is all about seeing what the current story is, and then being angry about it. Beyond this, there is always the thought in the back of one’s mind about wanting to know what the latest news is. I think I have come to realize that I do not need that type of low-level background worry.

Along with not posting, I also opted to try an experiment and see if anybody noticed that I had not posted nor replied on Twitter, and in fact only one person contacted me to make sure I was okay, because I had not posted. I am grateful for that person checking in on me.

Mastodon

Instead of using Twitter, I have been spending a lot more time on Mastodon. This was easy enough for me to do because there is a Mastodon client called Ivory, by Tapbots, the creators of Tweetbot. I was able to get into the beta and I put the Ivory app where I had Tweetbot. As of this writing this is not yet available for purchase on the App Store, but it will be coming soon. I will likely do a full review of Ivory once it is available to the public.

If you want you can follow me on Mastodon at https://mastodon.social/@waynedixon. There are a myriad of Mastodon apps, including the official one, available for all sorts of platforms.

If Mastodon is not your thing, you can check all of the other places I am using any of the links at both the top and bottom of this post.

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