Twitter’s API changes kills third-party app features

Yesterday, Twitter’s API changes went live, disabling key features for third-party apps including Twitterific and Tweetbot.

The new API has stopped third-party apps from automatically refreshing timelines, deleted timeline streaming, and put a limit on push notifications and other features.

To access Twitter’s new activity API’s comes at a steep cost of US$2,899pm for up to 250 accounts.

Disabled and delayed features

The changes have effected all third-party Twitter apps. Timeline streaming via Wi-Fi is no longer available, causing Twitter timelines to refresh at a slow pace; direct messages and push notifications are delayed; and retweets, follow and push notifications have been disabled.

Twitter wrote in an email to employees: “Third-party clients have had a notable impact on the Twitter service and the products we have built. Independent developers built the first Twitter client for Mac and the first native app for iPhone. These clients pioneered product features we all know and love about Twitter such as the pull-to-refresh gesture, and many more.

“We love that developers build experiences on our APIs to push our service, technology and the public conversation forward. We deeply respect the time, energy and passion they’ve put into building amazing things using Twitter.

Developer policies

“However, we haven’t always done a good job of being straightforward with developers about the decisions we make regarding third-party clients.”

In 2011, Twitter emailed developers telling them not to build apps that mimic the core Twitter experience. In 2012, the social network company then announced changes to developers’ policies intended to make these limitations clearer by capping the number of users allowed for a third-party client. Throughout the years’, following an array of announcements, Twitter has continuously told developers that its API roadmap does not prioritise client use cases.

“It’s time to make the hard decision to end support for these legacy APIs – acknowledging that some aspects of these apps would be degraded as a result. Today, we are facing technical and business constraints we can’t ignore,” the email continued.

Twitter’s new service

“The User Streams and Site Streams APIs that serve core functions of many of these clients have been in a ‘beta’ state for more than nine years, and are built on a technology stack we no longer support. We’re not changing our rules, or setting out to ‘kill’ third-party clients; but we are killing, out of operational necessity, some of the legacy APIs that power some features of those clients.”

The email also stated that, in addition, it hasn’t been realistic for Twitter to build a totally new service to replace all functionalities of these APIs, which are used by less than 1% of Twitter developers.

Nevertheless, as these changes appear to affect the majority of major Twitter clients, it’s unclear on how the 1% figure has been calculated.

Written by Leah Alger

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