Twitter drastically changing terms for third-party developers

Last week Twitter asked third-party developers to stop making Twitter client apps.

The arguments

The basic arguments are that users get an inconsistent experience depending on where they view a user’s timeline, profile or how they interact with the Twitter services. Basically, it’s consistency, consistency, consistency.

As I see it

The way I see it, and this may be blunt: it’s about monetizing. By not encouraging developers to build new apps or services accessing timelines, and by having way more strict guidelines for existing ones, it appears it’s only about driving traffic to the Twitter web site and apps. By owning how data is presented, making money through ads or other services becomes a much better possibility.

And no, making money is not evil. I understand they need the revenue and that they are a business. But what gets to me is that third party apps is what made Twitter so huge, and by trying to control them and herd them in just the direction Twitter wants, it drastically cuts down on user choice. And asking developers now to build other types of apps in the Twitter ecosystem doesn’t really seem helpful, and as a developer, I would just wonder when they would start cutting down/controlling those areas too.

What makes a service rich, for both developers, and more importantly end users, is having choice. User both need and deserve diversity, and that is what the web is about. It’s about content and services, and how people like to use it – not just presentation. For companies to be able to achieve this, they should offer an open API where anyone can develop the services they seem fit – and naturally, this is not something which should later on be cut down.

I’m also afraid of the possible repercussions from this in terms of developers being wary of using various services’ APIs to build amazing things. Combining content and cross-presenting can make a web site or similar great, but if people get wary of using content/possibilities provided through other APIs, it will make us miss out on good experiences.

I sincerely hope Twitter backs down on this, and finds other ways to reach the goals they want.


  • Andy L says:

    Google Buzz gets more enticing every day…

  • Björn Lilja says:

    Somewhat of a side note: The (long discussed) revenue model for Twitter is truly strange. Twitter, despite the limited length of a tweet, know a lot about it’s users. Who do we follow, what do we retweet, where do we link etc. This is a lot like Google Adsense, and why Twitter hasn’t tried to launch a ad model like that exceeds my understanding. Today’s “promoted tweets” really do suck as a long term business model.

    Inspiration from Adsense could also solve the developer issue. A standardized set of add formats, together with an strong incentive by using a rev.share model, would make is posible by developing third party client apps and making use of the twitter ad network very hard to resist once popular.

    Maybe, trying a “good enough” business model is not enough for twitter, since it would hurt it’s valuation among investors?

  • Robert Nyman says:


    Well, not sure I feel like that either…


    Very good question!
    I mean, like you say, they have tons of options to build on that, so a move like this really surprises me.

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