Twitter has become openly hostile to third-party apps over the past few years, to push users to its own applications. Many features have never been available to third-party apps, like group DMs, polls, and Moments. The company also introduced a token limit a few years ago, causing popular clients to suddenly stop working (like Flamingo).
Back in December, Twitter announced that existing streaming APIs would stop working in June 2018, as they would be replaced by a new Account Activity API. The new service is open for large companies to try out, but small developers have not been granted access to it. All third-party Twitter clients are still using the legacy APIs.
Earlier today, the developers of Talon, Tweetbot, Tweetings, and Twitterrific published apps-of-a-feather.com. The site outlined the upcoming API changes, and why they would break all existing third-party clients. Here's an excerpt:
The new Account Activity API is currently in beta testing, but third-party developers have not been given access and time is running out.
With access we might be able to implement some push notifications, but they would be limited at the standard level to 35 Twitter accounts – our products must deliver notifications to hundreds of thousands of customers. No pricing has been given for Enterprise level service with unlimited accounts – we have no idea if this will be an affordable option for us and our users.
Automatic refresh of your timeline just won't work: there is no web server on your mobile device or desktop computer that Twitter can contact with updates. Since updating your timeline with other methods is rate-limited by Twitter, you will see delays in real-time updates during sporting events and breaking news.
The site encouraged people to tag the Twitter development account (@TwitterDev) and use the hashtag #BreakingMyTwitter. Sure enough, the hashtag quickly gained momentum, sparking outrage on the platform.
I worked on Twitter for iPhone for four years. The day it becomes the app I’m forced to use in order to use Twitter on my phone is the day I stop using Twitter. #BreakingMyTwitter
— Jordan Kay (@_Jordan) April 6, 2018
— Guilherme Rambo (@_inside) April 6, 2018
— Brent Simmons (@brentsimmons) April 6, 2018
After a few hours, the @TwitterDev account finally responded, announcing that the API cutoff would be delayed. The new deprecation date has not yet been released, but the company says it will be announced with at least 90 days warning.
Last year we announced our plan to retire Site Streams & User Streams, and replace them with the Account Activity API (currently in beta). We are delaying the scheduled June 19th deprecation date.
— Twitter Dev (@TwitterDev) April 6, 2018
For now, it seems third-party clients are safe. But as Twitter continues to annoy developers, kill off popular clients (including its own), and fail to deal with other pressing matters, alternative platforms with fully-accessible APIs like Mastodon and Diaspora continue to look more attractive.