Today’s Occurrence: Twitter May Lockdown Third-Party Apps
Earlier today, The Verge reported that Twitter may begin implementing stricter API guidelines on third-party Twitter apps. In March of 2011, Twitter announced that they would no longer allow services that “mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience.” So, needless to say, the notion of Twitter enforcing stricter guidelines on third-party developers shouldn’t come as a surprise.
However, with so much time that has passed since Twitter’s original discussion (and with little to no action) of shutting down services that mimic the “mainstream Twitter consumer experience,” it certain begs the question, “why now?” Twitter offers their own official apps for each big mobile OS, as well as OS X; but, it’s safe to say that a decent percentage of Twitter users opt for one of the many third-party Twitter apps, such as Tweetbot, Twittelator Neue, TweetDeck, Seesmic, Hootsuite and MetroTwit.
As a user of a third-party Twitter app (Tweetbot), I am very concerned with this news. Compared to the official Twitter app for iOS, Tweetbot offers a slew of great features, including push notifications, iCloud sync, the ability to mute users and not show re-tweets for individual users (extremely handy when you follow someone that constantly re-tweets things you have zero interest in reading). 9 to 5 Mac also reported some purported screen sheets of a future iOS Twitter app update, which include a list of multiple new features and tweaks, which fortunately include push notifications.
I don’t know the first thing about ad revenue (and I’m not going to pretend I do), but it certainly seems like Twitter is trying to make a push to make more money via ads. Since Twitter’s inception, they’ve claimed to be a very non-profitable company (especially compared to multi-billion giant Facebook); however, since 2009 Twitter has been able to turn a profit of nearly $25 million (and supposedly as high as, if not more than, $85 million in 2011).
Like all companies, Twitter wants to continue to grow and make more money, so if apps like Tweetbot give users to option to mute specific tweets, it may end up hurting Twitter’s bottom line. As a user of the service, I can certainly understand Twitter’s need to make money; after all, if they don’t make money the service won’t be around as long as I’d like (similar to a lot of my favorite shows). So, I have no problem with supporting Twitter’s decision to restrict what third-party apps are capable of doing, within reason.
My biggest fears, and I bet I’m not the only one, is that Twitter will eventually begin neutering third-party apps to the point that they become unbearable to use, forcing users to flee to the official Twitter app and website. If you’ve never used the official Twitter app for iOS or Android, I can tell you that it’s decent, but severely lacking in comparison to other great third-party apps.
For now all we can do is sit back and wait to see exactly what Twitter does. Let’s just hope the company doesn’t forget who helped make them one of the most popular social networks in the world — the users. If users want the ability to not use an official app that’s not very good (e.g. Facebook’s app on any device) then it’s in their best interest to work with developers to create products that everyone is (mostly) happy with.