Twitter Explains API Changes to Employees as Limits for Third-Party Apps Go Live

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Twitter's API changes went live today, disabling key features for third-party apps like Tweetbot and Twitterific.

The new API removes timeline streaming, preventing third-party apps from refreshing timelines automatically, and it limits push notifications and other features. Twitter is also charging exorbitant fees for access to its new activity APIs, with access starting at $2,899 per month for up to 250 accounts.


All third-party Twitter apps are affected by these changes. Tapbots yesterday updated the Tweetbot for iOS app to cripple multiple features popular with Tweetbot users. Timeline streaming over Wi-Fi is no longer available, for example, which means Twitter timelines will now refresh more slowly.

Push notifications for Mentions and Direct Messages are delayed by several minutes, and push notifications for likes, retweets, follows, and quotes have been disabled entirely. The Activity and Stats tabs, which were reliant on now-deprecated activity APIs, have been removed from the app, and because the Apple Watch app was heavily dependent on Activity data, it too has been eliminated.

Similar changes were introduced in Twitterrific in July, and as of today, the Twitterrific app is no longer able to receive and display native notifications. Twitterrific's Today center widget and Apple Watch app relied on these features, and have been removed.

Twitterrific recommends Twitter users download the official Twitter app to receive their notifications, while using the Twitterrific app for everything else.

As the changes went live, Twitter today sent out a company-wide email to employees that starts out by acknowledging the huge impact that third-party Twitter clients have had on growing the Twitter service before pointing towards "technical and business constraints" that prevent it from continuing to offer the APIs necessary to keep these apps working as before.
Today, we will be publishing a blog post about our priorities for investing in Twitter client experiences. I wanted to share some insight into how we reached these decisions and how we're thinking about 3rd party clients moving forward.

First, some history: 3rd party clients have had a notable impact on the Twitter service and the products we built. Independent developers built the first Twitter client for Mac and the first native app for iPhone. These clients pioneered product features we all know and love about Twitter such as mute, the pull-to-refresh gesture, and many more.

We love that developers build experiences on our APIs to push our service, technology, and the public conversation forward. We deeply respect the time, energy, and passion they've put into building amazing things using Twitter.

However, we haven't always done a good job of being straightforward with developers about the decisions we make regarding 3rd party clients. In 2011, we told developers (in an email) not to build apps that mimic the core Twitter experience. In 2012, we announced changes to our developer policies intended to make these limitations clearer by capping the number of users allowed for a 3rd party client. And, in the years following those announcements, we've told developers repeatedly that our roadmap for our APIs does not prioritize client use cases -- even as we've continued to maintain a couple specific APIs used heavily by these clients and quietly granted user cap exceptions to the clients that needed them.

It's time to make the hard decision to end support for these legacy APIs -- acknowledging that some aspects of these apps would be degraded as a result. Today, we are facing technical and business constraints we can't ignore. The User Streams and Site Streams APIs that serve core functions of many of these clients have been in a "beta" state for more than 9 years, and are built on a technology stack we no longer support. We're not changing our rules, or setting out to "kill" 3rd party clients; but we are killing, out of operational necessity, some of the legacy APIs that power some features of those clients. In addition, it hasn't been realistic for us to invest in building a totally new service to replace all of the functionality of these APIs, which are used by less than 1% of Twitter developers.

We've heard feedback from our customers about the pain this causes. We review #BreakingMyTwitter quite often and have spoken with many of the developers of major 3rd party clients to understand their needs and concerns. We're committed to understanding why people hire 3rd party clients over our own apps, and we're going to try to do better with communicating these changes honestly and clearly to developers.

We know we have a lot of work to do. This change is a hard, but important step forward. Thank you for working with us to get there.
Twitter has continually said that just 1 percent of Twitter developers use its now-deprecated APIs, but as these changes seem to impact most of the major Twitter clients, it's not clear how the 1 percent figure is being calculated.

As TechCrunch points out, Twitter's email insists that the APIs were "legacy technology" that needed to be eliminated for "operational necessity," but it's Twitter, not an outside force, that has refused to maintain or redevelop the APIs third-party apps are using or transition existing apps over to the new API platform.

The sad thing is they did build a service to replace most of this, they just priced access to it so high that it might as well not exist. pic.twitter.com/ylfG6lHbQp - Paul Haddad (@tapbot_paul) August 16, 2018

Twitter has further explained its decision to remove the APIs in a blog post that says the "best Twitter experience" it can provide is through its own "owned and operated Twitter for iOS and Android apps, as well as desktop and mobile twitter.com."

Article Link: Twitter Explains API Changes to Employees as Limits for Third-Party Apps Go Live
 

lec0rsaire

macrumors 68000
Feb 23, 2017
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I use the stock Twitter app. Why pay for Tweetbot when it is crippled? I don’t like ads but I’m not going to use a product that doesn’t support real time tweets just to be ad free. Tweetbot and Twitterific were great before Twitter crippled the 3rd party API.
 

MacDevil7334

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Oct 15, 2011
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If the point wasn’t to kill 3rd party clients, they would have developed new APIs that were based on “newer” technologies Twitter “supports” to replicate the functionality of the APIs being retired. Removing functionality critical to 3rd party clients and offering no replacement can only be seen as an effort to cripple those clients. Twitter can protest all they want but that’s the reality.
 

nutmac

macrumors 601
Mar 30, 2004
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I use the stock Twitter app. Why pay for Tweetbot when it is crippled? I don’t like ads but I’m not going to use a product that doesn’t support real time tweets just to be ad free. Tweetbot and Twitterific were great before Twitter crippled the 3rd party API.
Many reasons for using 3rd party apps like Tweetbot and Twitterific.
  1. Syncs timeline across multiple devices, whether it be iPhone, iPad, or macOS.
  2. Do not insist on showing me what Twitter thinks I should see first.
  3. Native macOS apps.
  4. iPad version does not look like crap.
  5. Looks much nicer (at least to me).
  6. Many power features for managing my feeds and suppressing what I don't want to see.
  7. Much better at managing multiple lists.
  8. No ads, but I don't mind seeing ads as Twitter is entitled to make money too.
 

itsmilo

macrumors 68040
Sep 15, 2016
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I use the stock Twitter app. Why pay for Tweetbot when it is crippled? I don’t like ads but I’m not going to use a product that doesn’t support real time tweets just to be ad free. Tweetbot and Twitterific were great before Twitter crippled the 3rd party API.
I just cannot deal with this „what you may have missed“ who you may know „same tweets I already saw on top, AGAIN in the feed. Random tweets from yesterday thrown in the mix

(Black Twitterrific, white Twitter)
 

Attachments

Corrode

macrumors 6502a
Dec 26, 2008
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Twitter has continually said that just 1 percent of Twitter developers use its now-deprecated APIs, but as these changes seem to impact most of the major Twitter clients, it's not clear how the 1 percent figure is being calculated.
If you look at every single individual Twitter integration there is (sign in with Twitter, analytics, customer service, blocking services, etc) then this number makes sense. Tapbots is a single developer out of thousands that make tiny little integrations but still technically count as developers.

Not saying it’s right in justifying the impact, but that’s almost certainly how they’re calculating 1%.
 

Bokito

macrumors regular
May 29, 2007
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Netherlands
If you honestly need to explain such changes to your own employees you’re doing something wrong.

In 2011, we told developers (in an email) not to build apps that mimic the core Twitter experience.
The 3th party apps build the core Twitter experience, Twitter only created the foundation but they do a very bad job maintaining it. Even worse, the 3th party apps have a different experience now as they’re more responsive and just show a timeline and not things that ‘I have missed’ and things people like.

As long as it’s reasonably possible I will use 3th party clients as the experience is vastly superior over the core Twitter experience. It doesn’t need to be ad-free for me, but I just need a timeline with Tweets.
 
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ViDeOmAnCiNi

macrumors member
Sep 15, 2016
57
141
AZ
Maybe if your own app wasn’t spam galore, people would be more satisfied with it. Just saying
The Twitter branded app is CRAP. So much junk in it. As of this AM I have muted 4970 different advert accounts and blocked 41. The thing where it says "so and so that you follow liked this post" is MADDENING and keeps coming back every month or so. If Twit wasn't screwing every 3rd party app, I'd switch in a heartbeat.
 

bluespark

macrumors 68020
Jul 11, 2009
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If these are "legacy" APIs, then Twitter should update them. Then, they won't be legacy APIs any more.

Or it could look inward and hope that its approach works for all users. It won't, of course, and that will weigh down the platform.
 

hagar

macrumors 6502a
Jan 19, 2008
831
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So instead of having a healthy ecosystem of users and third party developers, they decide to throw it all away. Why? It just doesn't make any sense.

Luckily they still have Trump blasting his crazy tweets into the world to stay relevant. And when that (finally!) falls away, Twitter could well be facing a decline in its user base.
 

busyscott

macrumors regular
Sep 29, 2015
183
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California
Lol, "we want to be straight forward with what we're doing with the API" also "we're not killing 3rd parties" also "we're killing the API's third parties need to function."

This is the type of defense I'd expect a murderer to use after he rejected representation from the public defender.

"I didn't murder him, your honor. I simply locked him in a cage and didn't give him food or water. You should put starvation on trial, not me!"
 

OldSchoolMacGuy

Suspended
Jul 10, 2008
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Costs a lot of money to keep an API going. Seems most here don't understand this. Lots of crying going on. Twitter won't miss those that stop using it because of this move. You were just a leech on their system anyways with your 3rd party app and lack of ads.
 

DeepIn2U

macrumors 604
May 30, 2002
7,406
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Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I use the stock Twitter app. Why pay for Tweetbot when it is crippled? I don’t like ads but I’m not going to use a product that doesn’t support real time tweets just to be ad free. Tweetbot and Twitterific were great before Twitter crippled the 3rd party API.
My thoughts exactly. However as noted below many feel that there is a great benefit to such 3rd party apps, and quite honestly, TweetBot is the best in the business ... even comparing every other platform.

Many reasons for using 3rd party apps like Tweetbot and Twitterific.
  1. Syncs timeline across multiple devices, whether it be iPhone, iPad, or macOS.
  2. Do not insist on showing me what Twitter thinks I should see first.
  3. Native macOS apps.
  4. iPad version does not look like crap.
  5. Looks much nicer (at least to me).
  6. Many power features for managing my feeds and suppressing what I don't want to see.
  7. Much better at managing multiple lists.
  8. No ads, but I don't mind seeing ads as Twitter is entitled to make money too.

Twitter Inc. said:
We've heard feedback from our customers about the pain this causes. We review #BreakingMyTwitter quite often and have spoken with many of the developers of major 3rd party clients to understand their needs and concerns. We're committed to understanding why people hire 3rd party clients over our own apps, and we're going to try to do better with communicating these changes honestly and clearly to developers.

We know we have a lot of work to do. This change is a hard, but important step forward. Thank you for working with us to get there

Kills Mac app.
Kills APIs so you can't effectively use any other Mac app.
In the previous thread posted today I originally posted ...

I'd like to see these third party apps that have made their developers rich begin to collaborate with one another then work with Twitter to create new UI on the service's app ... and allow more features to flourish for 3rd party apps. Win Win for everyone.
After a few rebuttals re-iterated and adjusted my thoughts ...

They have every right to pull their own APIs to shut out developers, and thus developers will need to adjust - since well, they didn't build the service. My suggestion was for all twitter developers to come together and pull resources and ideas to come to Twitter to help them bolster/better their service. Maybe also make the argument to re-implement API's or new ones to allow for new features. Since the developers feed of Twitter as a fruit/seed ... why not SEED the source with that is potentially explosive and expand ... a win win for all ... including the end users. Seems like a better idea than to just pull services out from users that have already paid without even a collective fight. But I'm not a coder yet so what do I know.
Frankly, if Twitter was really '... committed to understanding why people hire 3rd party clients over our own apps ..' and grateful for these 3rd party developers for 'working with us to get there' Why doesn't Twitter just

- KILL their own App entirely.
- work with 3rd party developers to facilitate anything (including API's) beyond what the Web UI offers for Twitter (and the TVOS app) ?!

To me this would be the BEST working example of open-source collaboration and each developer can develop their own unique take on API's into their UIs and navigation.

We'll we'll now see Twitter end user numbers drop.
 

w00master

macrumors 65816
Jul 18, 2002
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I use the stock Twitter app. Why pay for Tweetbot when it is crippled? I don’t like ads but I’m not going to use a product that doesn’t support real time tweets just to be ad free. Tweetbot and Twitterific were great before Twitter crippled the 3rd party API.
Why use a 3rd party versus stock? Because the stock app is terrible, and every change that they've made has NOT improved it.

For me, the question now is: why do I continue to use Twitter in the first place? Methinks it's time to quit.
 

mattyj2001

macrumors member
Oct 29, 2015
96
369
In other words, after all the data sharing scandals and purging of millions of accounts, they have to generate revenue somehow, and that means taking eyeballs off third party apps and putting them on their own. It really is that simple. Twitter has never cared about user experience, they care about impressions.
 

busyscott

macrumors regular
Sep 29, 2015
183
1,567
California
If you look at every single individual Twitter integration there is (sign in with Twitter, analytics, customer service, blocking services, etc) then this number makes sense. Tapbots is a single developer out of thousands that make tiny little integrations but still technically count as developers.

Not saying it’s right in justifying the impact, but that’s almost certainly how they’re calculating 1%.
Based on the email included in this article, it seems to me they are saying "we can't replace (all of) them" and "the percentage of developers who use (all of) them is less than 1%" They are definitely skewing the numbers here to seem better than it is.
 

fairuz

macrumors 68020
Aug 27, 2017
2,486
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Silicon Valley
Costs a lot of money to keep an API going. Seems most here don't understand this. Lots of crying going on. Twitter won't miss those that stop using it because of this move. You were just a leech on their system anyways with your 3rd party app and lack of ads.
Yep, the one thing nobody else is willing to say. For the very few people affected, it's not like Twitter is an essential service even in the broadest terms.
 
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