Twitter New Developer Terms Ban Third-Party Clients

Delfrina Yasmine . January 26, 2023

Picture: T24

Techspace - Following the removal of famous app developers such as Tweetbot and Twitterific, Twitter discreetly amended its developer conditions today to exclude third-party clients entirely.

The "restrictions" portion of Twitter's 5,000-word developer agreement has been modified with a language forbidding "using or accessing the Licensed Materials to construct or attempt to establish a substitute or comparable service or product to the Twitter Applications," as reported by Engadget. Twitter announced earlier this week that it was "enforcing long-standing API standards" by denying clients access to its platform but did not specify which rules they were breaking. Now we know — in retrospect.

Twitter clients, as Engadget points out, are a part of Twitter history - Twitterific was launched before Twitter had its dedicated iOS app. And, thanks in part to their absence of advertisements, they've grown in popularity in recent years.

Twitter's stance on third-party clients has traditionally been tolerant, if not encouraging, with the business even going so far as to delete a clause from its developer conditions that banned developers from copying its core service. However, under CEO Elon Musk's leadership, this has changed.

The rules, which were updated on Thursday, make it clear what that means: "Twitter Applications" refers to the company's "consumer-facing products, services, applications, websites, web pages, platforms, and other offerings, including without limitation, those offered via and Twitter's mobile applications." According to the Wayback Machine, the language prohibiting alternative services was added to the rules in the most recent version.

The regulation change comes after Twitter quietly crippled many popular third-party Twitter clients, including Tweetbot and Twitterific, on January 12th. At the time, the developers behind the applications (many of which had historically molded the whole Twitter user experience) claimed they had yet to get any business contact about what was happening. Then, on January 17th, the company's developer account tweeted that it was "enforcing its long-standing API standards," which "may result in certain apps not working."

The comment was met with disapproval. Several observers and developers raised concerns about the lack of clarity about which rules were being breached and the fact that the applications had been operating for years before Elon Musk acquired Twitter and announced aspirations to make it into an "everything app." Former Twitter developer platform lead Amir Shevat told me in 2021 that a recent regulation change was mainly designed to make it simpler for developers to compete with Twitter's first-party applications.

"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. "We have no idea these recently changed regulations 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."

Money is most likely one of the motivators driving the regulation change and prohibition of third-party clients. Since Musk took control, Twitter has been struggling financially, owing billions of dollars, and third-party clients presumably make less money than first-party clients. While some developers pay to use the API, the firm does not sell advertisements, limiting its potential to monetize users who use alternative apps. People who use third-party clients may be less interested in the Twitter Blue subscription service, which primarily adds capabilities to the official Twitter app.

There appears to have yet to be an official notice of the rule change from Twitter Dev or Elon Musk. Twitter does not have a public relations department.

Twitter Provided No Notice of The Term Change

Picture: Science News

The move is unlikely to improve Twitter's image at a time when the company is facing a variety of issues. Twitterrific's Sean Heber described Twitter as "increasingly capricious" and a corporation he "no longer recognizes as trustworthy nor wants to cooperate with any longer" in a blog post. Fenix developer Matteo Villa termed the lack of communication "insulting" in an interview with Engadget. (At the moment, Twitter lacks a communications department.)

Twitter is under intense pressure to make a profit — or at the very least break even — as advertisers quit the site in response to unpredictability and rapid change in content restrictions. The firm, which is in debt to the tune of $12.5 billion, is on the line for $300 million in interest payments and has lost an estimated $4 billion in value since Musk bought it at the end of October 2022. Fidelity has reduced the value of its Twitter holding by 56%.

Twitter needs to be more staff. The New York Times claimed that some employees carry their toilet paper to work after the firm curtailed housekeeping services, and Twitter has ceased paying rent for some of its offices. Musk has also tried to save roughly $500 million in non-labor expenditures by closing down a data center and initiating a fire sale after auctioning off office goods to recuperate costs.

Twitter is also extensively promoting its Twitter Blue plan (which now includes an annual option), intending to turn it into a profit generator. It wants to abolish its ban on political advertisements to compete for campaign funds in the 2024 U.S. elections. Furthermore, the firm is rumored to be considering selling usernames via online auctions.

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