Last Friday, a bunch of popular Twitter clients, including Tweetbot, Twitterrific, and Echofon, were down. Users were unable to log into their accounts or view their timelines. At first it looked like a bug in Twitter API, but radio silence from Twitter and new details indicated that the company was intentionally restricting access to third-party apps.
On Friday, late evening PST time, many users found themselves unable to access their third-party Twitter clients. The app’s makers quickly acknowledged the problem and said they had tried to contact the company.
A Japan-based developer noticed at the time that many smaller Twitter clients worked flawlessly. Many people in the community speculated that it could be an issue with the API or that the company is restricting access to larger clients.
The radio silence
While developers and users expected Twitter to communicate with them in some way, the company and its new owner Elon Musk kept radio silence on the issue. However, Tesla’s CEO tweeted everything from the latter Falcon heavy launch to build transparency on Twitter by publishing that of the platform tweet recommendation code.
Internal posts on Twitter indicated that shutting down certain external customers was a business decision rather than a bug. The information reported over the weekend. The report said a project manager told the product team that the company “began working on communications,” but gave no timeline for official and approved communications.
Since the beginning of the saga, many developers have expressed their frustrations with it Twitter and Mastodon. Twitterrific creator Craig Hockenberry posted a blog post called “The Shit Show,” in which he said: “Personally, I am done. And with vengeance.”
Fenix developer Matteo Villa said on Twitter that he is considering pulling the client from the App Store – which works at the time of writing – because he fears the client will stop working at some point.
Tweetbot co-creator Paul Haddad even tried to make the app work by loading old API keys. That trick worked for a while and some people were able to access their accounts. Well users started reaching an API limit and the customer was later suspended again.
iOS developer Musk said on their account that Tweetbot encountered the limit of 300 messages per 15 minutes – which applied to the old v1.1 API – for all users.
Previously, they had built a demo client to show that Twitter’s API worked and that the suspension of third-party apps was not due to a bug.
Several of these developers were concerned about handling refunds for people who subscribed to the pro or premium versions of their apps if Twitter banned third-party customers. That would also mean their annual income would drop and they would have to build new products without making any money.
The way forward
Some developers have already shown their intention to focus on other projects. Haddad told TechCrunch via email that Tweetbot is focusing on launching its Mastodon client Ivory — which is currently in closed beta — at an accelerated pace.
He said the team is currently focused on improving the onboarding experience, fixing the bugs and working on an App Store release.
Villa has also released a beta version of its Mastodon client Wolly on Apple’s testing platform Testflight.
For some other developers, the situation is bleak. As iOS developer Adam Demasi pointed out, some indie developers whose primary product was a Twitter client could get into trouble.
Since Musk acquired Twitter last year, the company has shut down several developer-related projects, including Twitter Toolbox for app discovery. Some other programs are defunct, even if the company hasn’t announced any official closures. Developers have been cautious about their Twitter development plan as the company has not explicitly communicated its plans on platform support.
These kinds of actions have undone the work of the social network in recent years to regain the trust of developers. Last month, Amir Shevat, Twitter’s former head of developer platforms, wrote on TechCrunch that the new management has betrayed developer trust. This dubious suspension of third-party Twitter clients without any communication will not instill confidence in the community.