Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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The end of the Twitter client era

Last Thursday evening, Twitter shut off API access to many of the most popular third-party Twitter client apps. It’s an unsurprising, but ignominious, end. Here’s The Iconfactory’s Craig Hockenberry, who thought up the now-disabled Twitterrific app and materially contributed to fundamental concepts of Twitter:

What bothers me about Twitterrific’s final day is that it was not dignified. There was no advance notice for its creators, customers just got a weird error, and no one is explaining what’s going on. We had no chance to thank customers who have been with us for over a decade. Instead, it’s just another scene in their ongoing shit show.

As Ben Thompson wrote on Monday, allowing third-party clients that don’t show ads is something that doesn’t make business sense, so it’s not surprising that Twitter’s new management decided to pull the plug. (The company could’ve decided to build on a concept involving third-party clients and an API, but it would require a level of technical commitment it has never really been able to spare—and there are few if any examples of peer social-media companies offering unfettered APIs to create alternate interfaces to their services.)

What’s infuriating is how clueless, classless, and cowardly this move was. Not only does pulling the plug without any announcement or explanation—let alone any warning!—disrespect the developers who worked with Twitter for years, but it directly disrespects Twitter’s own customers, many of whom contribute a lot of free content to the overall platform. Why do this quietly one evening and never make a public announcement? Why not just announce that the API would be shut off for client apps next week, or at the end of the month?

And they couldn’t even do it right. Numerous third-party client apps are still functional… just not the biggest names on the biggest platforms. A classless operation, an unnecessary PR own-goal, and a botched technical roll-out. Sounds par for the course for today’s Twitter.

Here’s a moment of hope, again from Hockenberry:

One thing I remember from these early days: no one had any idea what they were doing. It was all new and things like @screen_name, #hashtags, or RT hadn’t been invented yet. Heck, we didn’t even call them “tweets” or use a bird icon at first! The best ideas came from people using the service: all of the things mentioned above grew organically from a need.

That’s where I want to be in the future. Exploring unknown territory that empowers others and adapts to the needs of a community.

I hope to see what was great about Twitterrific turn into something new and exciting and interesting. I would love to see Craig, developer Sean Heber, and the rest of the Iconfactory help define the next generation of social media as much as they did the last generation.

(And in the meantime, if you’re looking for a replacement for a third-party Twitter app, I recommend investigating Ivory by Tapbots, which builds on that company’s Tweetbot app—now shut down, of course—to build a world-class Mastodon/fediverse client.)

—Linked by Jason Snell

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