Twitter has announced some new changes that make it significantly more difficult and tedious to develop third-party software around the social network. We’ve known that Twitter was evolving its business model and changing its attitude towards developers for quite some time, but this recent announcement marks the first major shift towards a closed Twitter. To put it plainly, many developers probably won’t be looking at Twitter as a potential platform to build on anymore.
What’s changed? Along with a host of new rules and restrictions that limit how apps like Flipboard interact with Twitter, developers are now being told to basically stop developing traditional clients like Twitterrific and Tweetbot. The golden age of Twitter is over.
From now on, developers will need to work “with” Twitter before their apps can attract large user bases. The amount of times per hour an app can call on Twitter to retrieve new tweets has been greatly restricted, and developers have a max user base they can serve. If, say, an app like Tweetbot were to reach 100,000 users, no more users would be able to use the app until the developers got in contact with Twitter to work something out. If an app already has more than 100,000 users as of today, it can double its user base before the developers have to contact Twitter directly. What happens when Twitter gets involved remains up in the air. It’s Twitter’s game now.
Twitter also says, “Tweets that are grouped together into a timeline should not be rendered with non-Twitter content. e.g. comments, updates from other networks.” This means that a Twitter timeline cannot be grouped together with any other information, like a stream of multiple feeds from different social networks. There are all kinds of vague restrictions in the new rules that developers will have to figure out through trial by fire in the coming months.
The scariest thing about these changes is that Twitter could add more rules at any moment. This feels like just the tip of the iceberg. The third-party Twitter apps you use now probably won’t change for awhile, but Twitter is sending the message that it wants its whole user base on its own official clients. Less and less room is being left for third-party developers, and it’s only a matter of time before there’s no room for third-party, consumer-orientated apps in Twitter’s universe.
And no, Twitter still hasn’t announced any changes to its incredibly outdated Mac app.