Twitter’s complicated relationship with developers is about to get a whole lot worse.
That’s because the company can’t seem to make up its mind on whether it wants to keep third-party Twitter clients around.
Some quick background for those who aren’t up to speed on Twitter developers’ latest headaches: a year ago, the company announced a bunch of changes to its developer policies that the company billed as its latest effort to make the platform a more hospitable place for developers.
But what it didn’t publicize, was that the sweeping API changes would also impose new limits that would effectively “break” the vast majority of third-party Twitter clients. Making matters worse, Twitter never made the beta version of its new API widely available to these developers, who were growing increasingly worried their apps would stop working as of the June 19, 2018, migration date.
All this came to head Friday, when the developers of four of the most popular Twitter clients — Twitterific, Tweetbot, Tweetings, and Talon — penned an open letter to the company begging them to stop #BreakingMyTwitter.
“Despite a long history of third-party contributions to the Twitter ecosystem, the company continues to actively discourage ‘client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience,’ Including platforms where there is no native app,” the developers wrote.
Several hours later, Twitter announced that it’d be delaying API changes to a later date, saying the company would make sure developers had at least 90 days notice.
Last year we announced our plan to retire Site Streams & User Streams, and replace them with the Account Activity API (currently in beta). We are delaying the scheduled June 19th deprecation date.
— Twitter Dev (@TwitterDev) April 6, 2018
But though this may provide short-term relief to developers worried about imminent demise of their apps, Twitter failed to give a clear answer on whether it was committed to supporting third-party Twitter clients in the first place.
a spokesperson declined to answer when asked Twitter was committed to supporting third-party clients as part of its ecosystem
For now, Twitter’s Activity API still limits developers to push notifications for just 35 accounts, which is a nonstarter for clients like Tweetbot which need to provide notifications to “hundreds of thousands” of users, according to developers.
A spokesperson declined to answer when asked Twitter was committed to supporting third-party clients as part of its ecosystem.
So while it’s possible Twitter could reach yet another détente with developers, it’s certainly not looking good at this particular moment.
Needless to say, this is worrying not just for developers, but for all Twitter users. Third-party Twitter clients have been an important part of the company’s platform since Twitter’s early days.
Third-party apps have historically been much farther ahead of the curve in terms of adapting to the constantly changing needs of users. Twitterific, for example, had a Mac app for Twitter long before Twitter ever had one (incidentally, the company killed its own native Mac app earlier this year).
Even former product chief Jeff Seibert weighed in to say that killing Tweetbot would be “a grave error.”
While I deeply understand the complexities of running Twitter’s dev platform, and there are no easy decisions here, it would be a grave error to effectively end Mac support by killing Tweetbot. https://t.co/4ZcBRE80FQ
— Jeff Seibert (@jeffseibert) April 6, 2018
But despite their popularity, Twitter has never quite figured out how to peacefully coexist with developers.
In 2015, CEO Jack Dorsey famously promised to “reset” the company’s relationship with developers at the company’s (now defunct) developer conference.
“We can’t stand alone, we need your help, we need the help of everyone in the room,” Dorsey said. “We need to make sure that we are serving all of those organizations and all of our developers in the best way because that is what is going to make Twitter great.”
Less than two years later, the company had canceled its annual developer event and sold off its developer toolkit to Google.
Now, it can’t even give a clear answer on whether it wants third-party apps around at all.