Last night, Twitter blogged about upcoming changes to its API in version 1.1. It's not the most communicative of posts, goes on for quite a bit and has incensed quite a lot of developers.
The fury is all about this diagram and paragraph:
In the upper right-hand quadrant are services that enable users to interact with Tweets, like the Tweet curation service Storify or the Tweet discovery site Favstar.fm. That upper-right quadrant also includes, of course, "traditional" Twitter clients like Tweetbot andEchofon. Nearly eighteen months ago, we gave developers guidance that they should not build client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience." And to reiterate what I wrote in my last post, that guidance continues to apply today.
So, apps like Tweetbot, Echofon and Tweetdeck are no longer wanted. But why would they do this, and what are the alternatives?
Because Twitter is changing, and it's going to change rapidly. Twitter's 1.0 API has been around for 6 years, which is an eternity in API terms. They need to move on and they want their applications to come with them in the same way that Apple wants to control their app ecosystem and user experience. The problem is that these rules haven't existed before and the way it's all been phrased is pretty hideous and very negative.
Well, they could have phrased it better. Anil Dash does a great job of re-writing the post and making the world seem right again.
Joe Stump makes some great suggestions as to how to control third party clients:
Why not run API like the App Store? 1. Require they use Twitter ads 2. Require they follow design rules 3. Require all clients be approved
I really like those ideas, and they seem implementable, but it will require a lot of effort on Twitter's side to set up this ecosystem and encourage third party apps again.
But, from the blog post, it seems Twitter doesn't want to encourage third party apps.
There'll still be 6 months between v1.1 being turned on and 1.0 being turned off, which is plenty of time for developers to bring themselves into line with the new rules. Twitter will be listening to this discussion, and will probably respond in time. Hopefully this will clear up the confusion, and I hope they work directly with the developers that are affected by this, instead of just dictating the rules. We can always hope!
Just remember, it's still a great service (via Jason Snell)
As the Twitter angst burns bright, let me say this: I think Twitter is the single best thing ever made on the Internet. Seriously.