In a move to discourage the use of independent third-party Twitter apps, the hugely popular microblogging platform has begun to regulate the way in which user's access the service. What started as friendly advice towards independent developers six months ago has turned into an overhaul of the Twitter API, effectively excluding the involvement of third-party apps.
While no official date has yet been set, we can expect the sweeping changes to take effect "in the coming weeks", according to Twitter's Developer blog. The changes seem destined to gradually phase out the involvement of independent software developers who operate a number of popular third-party Twitter clients such as Uber, Tweetbot and Hootsuite. Evidently, the purpose of the Twitter API is to steer users towards Twitter's own selection of apps. The fear amongst users is that these actions are Twitter's way of adding to their internal value, rather than to the overall user experience. Those fears are starting to seem at least partially warranted.
Looking to follow in the gold-coated steps of Facebook, Twitter is trying to establish itself as a social media powerhouse that can be sustained by ongoing advertising revenues. The move to ostracise third-party applications is an essential move from Twitter's perspective, as independent software developers could essentially usurp internal advertising and decrease the measurability of users. Assuming the vast majority of users are logging in via Twitter's own services, their level of control is significantly increased - and in turn, their value.
Independent developers have been left angered, but not surprised by the Twitter API changes. The most critical update is the user limit for third-party apps. New applications will be limited to a maximum of 100,000 users, and existing applications that have already exceeded this number will be able to double their user base before Twitter enforces a cap on their users. To put those numbers into perspective, Hootsuite proudly announced reaching their milestone of 2million users only last month. On this basis, we can safely assume there will be a sharp reduction in the number of developers who will bother creating third-party applications, knowing that they will never be able to exceed 100,000 users.
In closing the announcement, Michael Sippey from Twitter said "Beyond API v1.1, we look forward to creating new ways for developers to build applications using data and content from Twitter". It seems though, that unless software developers are prepared to jump into bed with Twitter and work exclusively with them, on their terms, it might well be worth considering switching their focus to a new product/service.