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Update: Twitter clamps down on client apps

Juan Carlos Perez | March 14, 2011
Developers working on client applications that replicate Twitter.com's basic user functionality should turn their efforts elsewhere, because the company doesn't want any more such apps on the market.

During that time, Twitter, founded in 2006, had its hands full keeping up with the basics of running the company, such as maintaining the site up and available, a notorious struggle for years.

Thus, developers have created hundreds of thousands of applications for Twitter, including desktop clients, mobile interfaces, search engines, photo sharing tools, monitoring and analytics software and profile customization tools.

Many of these developers, which range from individual freelancers to large outfits, have built businesses of various sizes around their Twitter applications.

But starting in late 2009 and very clearly ahead of its Chirp developer conference a year ago, Twitter, having grown its staff and business significantly, has made it clear that it intends to provide by itself or in exclusive partnerships whatever functionality it considers of core importance to the Twitter user experience.

That now includes official Twitter applications for the iPhone, BlackBerry, iPad, Windows Phone and Android devices, for example. "As a result, the top five ways that people access Twitter are official Twitter apps. Still, our user research shows that consumers continue to be confused by the different ways that a fractured landscape of third-party Twitter clients display tweets and let users interact with core Twitter functions," Sarver wrote in his post.

So over the past year, Twitter has become a competitor for some of its external developers.

"There was a time when Twitter's attitude towards the developer community was: 'Hey, we've built this really cool platform and this really cool API! We can't wait to see what really cool things you build with it!,'" said Roelands.

That led to the creation of myriad Twitter applications, which in turn helped spur Twitter usage.

"Twitter appears to have decided that the developers who were once their allies are now a threat to the company's long-term plans. It's a shame," said Roelands , who also created an open source .NET library called TwitterVB that lets developers write Twitter applications without having to know the inner workings of the Twitter API.

Now, Twitter is setting its sights on client applications, citing user confusion and security concerns. "If there are too many ways to use Twitter that are inconsistent with one another, we risk diffusing the user experience. In addition, a number of client applications have repeatedly violated Twitter's Terms of Service, including our user privacy policy. This demonstrates the risks associated with outsourcing the Twitter user experience to third parties," Sarver wrote.

 

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