UPDATE (1/19): Twitter has updated its API usage terms to include the following clause:
"You will not or attempt to (and will not allow others to use or access the Licensed Materials to create or attempt to create a substitute or similar service or product to the Twitter Applications.”
In other words, Twitter is now banning the use of third-party apps that enable people to scroll their Twitter feed and interact, as they can in its app.
It's unclear how this relates to all apps that enable such functionality (including social management platforms like Hootsuite), but it appears to be limited, at present, to third-party clients that are focused on providing an alternative Twitter experience, which also enable people to avoid ad exposure.
Twitter has reportedly cut off API access for a range of third-party apps, including popular tools like Tweetbot and Twitterrific, which could be a new bid to stop people using the platform via third-party sites, forcing them back towards Twitter itself instead.
The cut-off came without warning on Thursday last week, with various tools left unable to access Twitter’s APIs, rendering them essentially non-functional. Initial speculation was that this was an error - of which Twitter has been experiencing plenty of late. But then on Saturday, The Information reported that, according to internal Twitter communications that it had seen, this was actually a deliberate suspension of access.
Twitter hasn’t shared any further info at this stage.
The developer community has been highly critical of Twitter’s actions, which it says are unprofessional and represent ‘an unrecoverable breach of trust between it and its developers and users’.
Though Twitter’s action is not entirely without precedent. Last month, Twitter announced that it would ban all links to competing social platforms, as a means to cut off what it sees as free promotion for its competitors in the app. Twitter reversed the decision within hours, after mass criticism of the update, but the basis for that move suggests that Twitter chief Elon Musk takes a dim view of allowing other platforms to use Twitter for their own purposes.
Which is also ignorant of the benefits that such linkage and access has had for Twitter’s growth.
Social platforms all benefit from a level of cross-linking and developer access, with third-party tools often becoming key connectors for users in different regions and circumstances, helping to grow usage and engagement.
Twitter has had a rocky relationship with developers, restricting and re-enabling API access over time - which is something that former CEO Jack Dorsey acknowledged had been a key mistake that he was seeking to rectify in his time as chief.
Worst thing we did. I wasn’t running company at the time. Company has worked hard and will continue to open back up completely.— jack (@jack) December 23, 2021
Musk, however, doesn’t have past history to refer to in this respect, and it may well be that he sees this type of access as a competitive concern, hence the decision to shut it down.
It could also be that Twitter's working to add in similar functionality to these apps as part of its new ‘Verification for Organizations’ subscription package. We don’t have any real detail to go on as yet, but Twitter is now calling for businesses to sign-up for early access to its professional subscription offering, which could include access to more advanced features.
It’s hard to know, because Twitter’s communications are fairly limited at present – and again, it hasn’t communicated anything to the development teams behind these apps who are unable to run their businesses as a result.
It could be a mistake, or a limited push. Or it could be the beginning of a bigger shift inside Twitter, as Elon seeks new pathways to monetization for the app.
UPDATE: After five days of zero communication from Twitter, the Twitter Developer account posted this update:
Twitter is enforcing its long-standing API rules. That may result in some apps not working.— Twitter Dev (@TwitterDev) January 17, 2023
No detail, very limited info, and nothing to assist businesses that are reliant on Twitter's API, and have suddenly lost access.