It was unclear what the Twitter company meant when it cited ‘long-standing third-party API rules’ as the reason TweetBot and others were blocked.
Twitter has updated its developer rules to prohibit third-party clients, almost a week after abruptly blocking the apps’ access to its platform with little explanation (via Engadget). You may not use Twitter’s API or content to “construct or attempt to develop a substitute or similar service or product to the Twitter Applications,” according to the new regulations.
According to the rules, the company’s “consumer-facing products, services, applications, websites, web pages, platforms, and other offerings, including without limitation, those offered via https://twitter.com and Twitter’s mobile applications,” which were updated on Thursday. According to the Wayback Machine, the clause prohibiting alternative services was added to the rules with the most recent update.
The regulation change comes after Twitter quietly disabled many popular third-party Twitter clients, including Tweetbot and Twitterific, on January 12th. At the time, the app developers (many of whom had traditionally moulded the whole Twitter user experience) claimed they had gotten no contact from the corporation about what was happening. The company’s developer account then tweeted on January 17th that it was “enforcing its long-standing API regulations,” which “may result in certain apps not working.”
The statement was not well received. Several critics and developers emphasised the lack of clarity regarding what rules were being breached, as well as the fact that the applications had been operating for years before Elon Musk acquired Twitter and began preaching intentions to make it into an “everything app.” Former Twitter developer platform lead Amir Shevat told me in 2021 that the business was explicitly aiming to make it simpler for developers to compete with Twitter’s first-party applications via a recent regulation change.
“We have been respectful of their API standards, as disclosed, for the past 16 years,” Ged Maheux, co-founder of Twitterific creator The Iconfactory, said in a blog post lamenting the app’s demise. “No idea that these regulations have recently changed, or what those changes may be.”
“There was no advance notification for its creators, consumers just got an odd error, and no one is explaining what’s going on,” Craig Hockenberry, principal at Iconfactory, said on his blog. We had no opportunity to thank clients who had been with us for more than a decade. Instead, it’s just another episode in their shitshow.”
The prohibition of third-party clients was likely motivated by money. Since Musk took control, Twitter has been struggling financially and is apparently losing money on users who use third-party clients. Developers reportedly pay to use the API, but Twitter does not sell ads through it; thus, monetization through alternative apps for these users may be limited. Because third-party clients may not be as interested in the Twitter Blue subscription service, it could have a hard time gaining traction.
There appears to have been no official notice of the rule change from either Twitter Dev or Elon Musk as there is no public relations department.