Thursday, May 17, 2018

New Twitter APIs and Pricing

Juli Clover:

Twitter today unveiled new details on its upcoming activity API changes, which will affect how third-party apps are able to access Twitter APIs and provide services to Twitter users who prefer to use apps like Twitterrific and Tweetbot.

Third-party Twitter app developers will be required to purchase a Premium or Enterprise Account Activity API package to access a full set of activities related to a Twitter account[…]


Twitter says it will be delaying the deprecation of its current APIs for three months to give developers time to transition over to the new platform. These APIs will be deprecated on Wednesday, August 16 instead of June 19, the original date Twitter planned to end support for the APIs.

Michael Glenn:

Twitter’s quarterly revenue was $665MM or $222MM a month.

Estimated active users are 267MM.

That’s $0.83 per user per month.

Why would they think $11.60 per user per month makes any sense?

Chuq Von Rospach:

In reality, priced to kill third party apps in a way Twitter hopes we blame the apps for.

Sean Heber:

It’s looking like it won’t be financially possible for us to afford the new account activity API from twitter.

John Gruber:

Twitter management obviously wants to steer people to their first-party mobile app and desktop website. I get that. But they already have that: the overwhelming number of Twitter users use exactly those products to access the service.


Twitter isn’t explicitly saying that they’re shutting down third-party clients, but I don’t know that it’s feasible for them to exist if they don’t have access to these APIs. It’s like breaking up with someone by being a jerk to them rather than telling them you’re breaking up.

Riccardo Mori:

What Twitter is doing to 3rd-party developers, is doing it purely out of spite. In the grand scheme of things, the sheer number of people using 3rd-party clients is too small to impact Twitter’s revenue.

Chuq Von Rospach:

They are pretty clearly moving to a model where brands and big names announce stuff and their fans listen, and those of us who use it to share info and chatter are inconvenient and in the way.

Previously: Twitter Shutting Down APIs, Twitter Abolishes Native Mac Client.

Update (2018-05-18): See also: Manton Reece.

Jan Dawson:

The big risk is that Twitter will focus so much on Twitter 2 that it fails to feed Twitter 1. Twitter 1 is the most vocal Twitter, and essentially all the influencers — whether celebrities, power users, or reporters — are in Twitter 1. Ignoring Twitter 1 as the company focuses on Twitter 2 would be a huge mistake, especially because so much of the content consumed by Twitter 2 is provided by Twitter 1. There’s a symbiotic relationship here, and one that Twitter has to be very careful not to disrupt.

The problem is that Twitter has another goal it’s trying to achieve: monetization. Twitter’s monetization strategy involves serving up ads, which in turn requires that people use Twitter’s own apps or its website to consume those ads. And yet Twitter 1 disproportionately uses third party clients like Tweetbot and Twitterrific. Because of Twitter’s insistence on monetization through advertising, and its general discouragement of clients that replicate the core Twitter experience, it’s started withholding some important features from the API it makes available to third party clients.

Via Nick Lockwood:

This Venn diagram is also equates pretty well with

Mac vs iOS users


Mac/iOS power users vs ordinary users

And similarly explains why Apple continues to grow and rake in profits whilst making decisions that frustrate its most vocal and valuable supporters.

Update (2018-06-02): See also: Accidental Tech Podcast.

10 Comments RSS · Twitter

In the grand scheme of things wrong about Twitter, 3rd-party app developers being pushed out is rather minor. But if that’s what gets tech folks to finally leave Twitter, so be it.

Is anyone planning an action day to leave Twitter? Or, more importantly, are we coordinating an effort to help the people we care about leave twitter as well? We complain about the network effect all the time, but organizing collective action is what can overcome that.

It’s not as if we are wanting for alternatives anymore. Find a Mastodon instance you like, or grab some accounts for friends and family. Maybe Manton can set up an ‘evacuation discount’ for geeks buying a bundle of hosted accounts for friends and family. We’re all about supporting the open web here, right? Let’s put our heads together to figure this out (and put some money behind it, too).

>Let’s put our heads together to figure this out

I'm getting the impression that these kinds of short-form, public, somewhat anonymous platforms are toxic by default. Any of these alternative platforms solve some of the Twitter's problems, but they don't solve the main problem, which is that these platforms only work when they are small, and have a limited user base. As soon as they get too popular, they're the pits.

So there's really no solution. You can be a tiny platform, and thus not be an alternative to Twitter, or you can be a large platform, and, at best, be almost as bad as Twitter, or, if things go sour, perhaps even worse.

Nick Lockwood is right. It's expensive to support noisy power users, especially when the mass market is so lucrative and low maintenance in comparison. Then again, MySpace once had mass appeal and it's basically dead....heed this warning carefully when jettisoning the core customer who built your company.


>Twitter 1 is the most vocal Twitter, and essentially all the influencers — whether celebrities, power users, or reporters — are in Twitter 1.

Celebrities, the people who really make Twitter worthwhile for 99% of Twitter users, give zero shits about stuff like this. Do you really think Katy Perry's PR team is going to boycot Twitter if they can't use Tweetbot anymore? They're not part of Twitter 1. They're not really Twitter users at all.

@Lukas I think you are probably right about that. :(

@Nathan I don’t see why it’s expensive for Twitter. If it’s really such a small percentage, they’re not losing much ad revenue, and they could find other ways to charge those users if they wanted. And I don’t think it costs big money to provide the APIs.

I guess Twitter rather succinctly answered my question from the prior thread on third party access, "Here's official API access at far over market value rates. Oh, you can't afford this proposition?"

That's pretty much it. Take it, Twitter makes a lot of money. Pass on it, Twitter further consolidates their power over the platform. It would seem Twitter prefers not to have Ignacio/Isobella indie Twitter app to flourish so much as they want big corporate tie ins....And yeah, duh, but a healthy platform can do both.

Seriously, so many silos, looks like farm country. We really need to sort out next generation communication as a standard.

Twitter's approach seems kind of insane. Why charge so much money that they guarantee they won't get any takers? They're trying to drive away customers who might be willing to give them a reasonable amount (say $1 per month) for access to an ad-free API. When your business model is to declare that you don't want the business of certain customers because it's too inconvenient to service them, you're doing capitalism wrong. All they have to do is say "to use a 3rd party client you have to be a subscriber to Twitter premium, the cost is $12 per year." - problem solved.

> When your business model is to declare that you don't want the business of certain customers
> because it's too inconvenient to service them, you're doing capitalism wrong

This *is* capitalism. Some customers are just not worth it. Apple isn't making Macs for professionals anymore, Ford is focusing on trucks and SUVs, and Twitter doesn't want people who use third-party apps. There's an opportunity cost to investing in small segments of your customer population, and if this small segment doesn't generate the revenue (or other benefits) to justify that cost, the capitalist thing to do is to cut them off.

Engineers are expensive, and maintaining public APIs that are used by a lot of people is one of the most expensive things you can get engineers to work on.

I think there are arguments that can be made against Twitter's behavior, but "they're doing capitalism wrong" is not one of them. They're doing capitalism exactly right.

@Michael Tsai
Any development time for a market segment not making you money (or enough money as the case may be) is an expense. I actually agree with you. Full stop. With Apple, with Twitter, whomever, curating an experience for taste makers doesn't have to be an endless money pit, but when you have much less discerning people who are far more lucrative to support? I understand why companies work this way, even if I disagree.

I truly think Twitter sees the API has a way to hooking into big apps or big corporate backends, like the time ESPN decided everyone had to use Facebook to leave a comment on ESPN. Maybe I'm wrong, as an outsider looking into the platform, that's my humble take on things.

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