On August 16th, Twitter finally introduced important API changes to developers. Under new policies, third-party Twitter clients will face obstacles in maintaining their existing features. While Twitter itself hopes to improve its platform, other apps may struggle to reap similar rewards.
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The company’s new Account Activity API prevents timelines from streaming automatically, stops automatic timeline refreshing, and severely limits push notifications. Notifications for mentions and direct messages are delayed by several minutes. The new API has also removed notifications for likes, retweets, quotes, and follows.
In addition, new fees are being introduced that make API access difficult. Twitter will now charge developers $2,899/month to support up to 250 user accounts. That’s $11.60 per account, a huge investment for any developer.
Overall, this potentially threatens to:
- Limit the creation of new third-party clients, which face greater barriers to entry in terms of expenses
- Raise the costs of existing apps to compensate for higher fees
- Make high-quality apps harder to create, especially if developers can’t afford to support better features
The Challenge of Making a Twitter Client
Though social media companies like Twitter support the creation of third-party apps, they can stop supporting them at any time. Twitter’s API’s are essential tools for such app developers. With changes to new APIs, Twitter is taking steps to make competing apps less powerful.
For those unaware, APIs allow app creators to access some of the Twitter’s most important features. These features include notifications, direct messages, and timeline updates, to name a few examples. Accordingly, developers who use Twitter’s tools could build rival apps. As a direct result, users flocked to clients like Tweetbot and Twitterrific, which offered more personalized experiences.
Third-party apps can be threatening to the companies that support them, when successful. At a certain point, companies like Twitter may decide to protect their interests. It never looks good when users choose other options over your official app. Twitter stated the following in response:
[su_quote cite=”Rob Johnson, Senior Director of Data Enterprise Solutions, Twitter”]…We’ve heard feedback from our customers about the pain this causes. We review #BreakingMyTwitter quite often and have spoken with many of the developers of major 3rd party clients to understand their needs and concerns. We’re committed to understanding why people hire 3rd party clients over our own apps, and we’re going to try to do better with communicating these changes honestly and clearly to developers. [/su_quote]
Twitter says only 1% of developers use its older APIs, though recent changes affect most popular clients. Accordingly, the company never shared how it calculated this figure. As TechCrunch explains, Twitter considers its older APIs “legacy technology” that was supposedly holding the company back.
What Does This Mean for Twitter?
With news of the API change being so fresh, we would have to speculate. However, responses from internet forums have been mostly negative. Many people have regularly used these apps since they launched, and now cannot enjoy the platform as they had been before.
With a choice between the stock app and crippled third-party options, many users are in a pickle. Some have declared they will stop using Twitter entirely if they’re pushed to the native app. Users like having the freedom to choose their favorite apps. However, users may now view third-party apps as less attractive options overall. Most of these apps have released updates to account for the latest changes. As a workaround, Twitterrific even recommends that users download the official app to receive notifications – while using their app for everything else. This may be a good option for users.
In fairness, the company is within its right to choose how its platform grows. However, if users feel ignored for too long, such a strategy could backfire. That doesn’t make for an attractive trending story.