Twitter is, without a doubt, my favorite social network. As I’ve told many of my friends, it’s an amazing way to discover new people to follow and to take the pulse of the people you find interesting. There’s an adage that circles around tweetstreams every so often that summarizes the point nicely: “Facebook is for the people you know; Twitter is for the people you want to know.”

Tonight Twitter published a bunch of new rules for developers who use their service. As is standard with rule changes (remember the reply kerfuffle?), there’s been a heavy dose of backlash over the last couple of hours – including from yours truly. What Twitter didn’t do was provide a good explanation of why they were making their changes. It makes a lot more sense if you tackle that question (even if you still don’t like the changes).

The new rules

At its core, tonight’s update about the direction of Twitter’s programming interface revolves around a fairly major change: Twitter discourages third-party developers from writing apps that mimic the functionality of the products released by Twitter itself. If you use an app like Echofon or (my personal favorite) Tweetbot, this is going to affect you. Twitter wants everyone using their own client. (Let’s ignore the fact that Twitter’s native mobile clients were pretty late to the game compared to pioneers like Twitterrific, and, as Gruber points out on Daring Fireball, Twitter’s own iOS and Mac client was a third-party app called Tweetie before it was acquired.)

But why?

Granted, the ratio of people who use third-party clients as opposed to Twitter’s official apps is relatively small. But why anger some of the most loyal users of your service… and why tick off some of your cheerleaders, the developers who make the apps?

The answer Twitter gives in tonight’s post is that they want to encourage a consistent interface across the platform. I can appreciate the intent here; if Twitter rolls out a new feature or changes how something works in the system, they don’t want to wait for every third-party developer to implement the change. I understand, but I don’t agree.

I admit, it’s strange to hear a loyal Apple user complain about limits placed by a platform owner on developers. And yes, it is in itself a bit inconsistent for me to shrug off the restrictions placed on iOS by Apple while also criticizing limits from Twitter in a similar scenario.

Third-party apps and services make Twitter a richer experience. I’ve really started to enjoy Storify; it’s a great way to collect tweets (and more) about related subjects in a single place – something Twitter’s tools don’t easily allow. Tweetbot also adds a thick layer of functionality on top of Twitter’s default service; it allows more sharing options, lets you switch between accounts more easily, and frankly does everything in a more seamless and convenient way than Twitter’s official apps.

In this situation, diversity allows innovation. That’s how Twitter has grown, and that’s how Twitter will continue to grow.

So let’s go back to the original question: why do any of this? I mean, really?

The answer (surprise, surprise) has to be advertising. Twitter controls the entire experience in its own app, including the option to insert ads (“promoted” stuff) anywhere it likes. If the same user visits the site using a third-party app, Twitter doesn’t get anything. Therein lies the problem.

The inevitability

This day had to come at some point; it’s the fatal flaw of Twitter’s current business model, and they’ve chosen to finally do something about it.

Are there other options? There must be compromises, like maybe…

  • Charge users an access fee to use third-party apps. Most developers probably wouldn’t like this, and it won’t fly for Twitter; it’s a numbers game for them now. New services like app.net, on the other hand, could be a new place for devotees who want complete control.
  • Push ads through the API and enforce rules for displaying them. This sounds like a great option, but it’d be really, really difficult to enforce. That adds a ton of overhead for Twitter.
  • Develop a mandatory revenue-sharing program for third-party apps. Sell ads in your app, Twitter gets 30%. Works for Google and Apple. Could it work for Twitter? Again, lots of enforcement and overhead.

In a dream world, I hope the complaints from developers and loyal users will cause Twitter to reconsider their policy. But in reality, a change like this is inevitable in order to allow Twitter to be sustainable. Something’s gotta happen for them to be successful as a platform.

But again, it doesn’t mean we have to like it.

August 16, 2012 at 10:25 pm
Hi! I'm Justin Russell. I'm a proud Mainer living in the Bangor area. Thanks for visiting! I'd love to hear your thoughts about this post in the comments below. If you'd like to stay in touch, you can subscribe to this blog's RSS feed or follow me at @justinrussell on Twitter.


  1. Ray Ban Eyeglasses KnockoffsJuly 4, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    How did you make this template? I got a blog as well and my template looks kinda bad so people don’t stay on my blog very long :/.
    Ray Ban Eyeglasses Knockoffs http://www.kiss.com.tw/html/?pid=101

  2. http://www.zskbely.cz/September 28, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    Oh my goodness! an incredible write-up dude. Thank you Nonetheless I am experiencing difficulty with ur rss . Don know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody getting equivalent rss drawback? Anyone who knows kindly respond. Thnkx
    http://www.zskbely.cz/ http://www.zskbely.cz/

  3. yahooNovember 3, 2015 at 4:54 am

    Only wanna tell that this is very helpful , Thanks for taking your time to write this.

  4. glogspotNovember 3, 2015 at 5:35 am

    Thank you a bunch for sharing this with all folks you really realize what you are speaking about! Bookmarked. Kindly also consult with my site =). We could have a hyperlink change contract between us!

  5. qq.comNovember 14, 2015 at 7:40 am

    Really the only purpose of handling is to ensure that the
    plans tend to be followed for the letter intended for goals results.
    It is obviously important to remember that a
    lot much nonproductive cash is a bad item ( space ) large companies
    even probability losing the ownership while suitors circle together with the intent of leveraging the lenders
    cash as well as assets to help in effect take its company faraway
    from them using a buyout? In the previous part, we saw the
    way the projected Gain and Burning Statements
    along with Balance Published are prepared

  6. Downeastenergypriceplans.InfoDecember 20, 2015 at 4:37 am

    If you would like to obtain a good deal from this article then you have to
    apply these methods to your won weblog.

  7. vientre de alquiler precio españa 2012December 30, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    Recurrir a una madre sustituta en Colombia es complicado
    pero no imposible, aun para una pareja gay.

  8. my siteJanuary 7, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    I used to be recommended this website through my cousin. I’m now not positive
    whether or not this publish is written via him as nobody else
    realize such specified about my trouble. You’re amazing!

  9. raymour and flanigan bedroom setMarch 4, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d without a doubt donate to this
    fantastic blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your
    RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to new updates and will share this website with my Facebook group.
    Chat soon!

  10. bedroomhousesforrentApril 4, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    Paragraph writing is also a fun, if you be familiar with afterward you
    can write if not it is complicated to write.

  11. DanielleMay 20, 2018 at 4:27 pm

    An intriguing discussion is worth comment. I believe that you should write more on this subject matter, it may not be a taboo subject but usually people do not speak about these topics.
    To the next! Cheers!!

Leave a comment