Friday, January 20, 2023

Twitter Makes It Official

Karissa Bell:

In case there was any doubt about Twitter’s intentions in cutting off the developers of third-party apps, the company has quietly updated its developer agreement to make clear that app makers are no longer permitted to create their own clients.

The “restrictions” section of Twitter’s developer agreement was updated Thursday with a clause banning “use or access the Licensed Materials to create or attempt to create a substitute or similar service or product to the Twitter Applications.”

I don’t understand what this means for API users such as NetNewsWire that are not trying to create their own client. What counts as a substitute?

Via John Gruber:

It’s better to put it in writing and make it official, but it just makes Twitter’s claim two days ago that these terms were “longstanding” all the more absurd.

Sean Heber (Hacker News):

But, as much as it pains us to say it, Twitterrific for iOS and macOS have now been removed from both App Stores. If you had a subscription on iOS, it will be automatically cancelled by the App Store.

Finally, if you were subscriber to Twitterrific for iOS, we would ask you to please consider not requesting a refund from Apple. The loss of ongoing, recurring revenue from Twitterrific is already going to hurt our business significantly, and any refunds will come directly out of our pockets – not Twitter’s and not Apple’s.

Tapbots (Hacker News):

While it is time for us to lay it to rest, a new bot will rise in its place and be greater than Tweetbot ever was. Built on an open and free platform, we are proud to introduce Ivory for Mastodon. We have taken everything great about Tweetbot and used it as the starting point for the future of Ivory. We have great plans to make Ivory better than Tweetbot ever could be.

See also: The Talk Show.


Update (2023-01-25): Paul Haddad:

A batch of the smaller Twitter 3rd party clients has been banned over the last couple of days. I just can’t tell if they are doing it this way because they are trying to maximize FUD and minimize outrage. Or if they don’t have anyone left who knows how stuff works and are just doing searches for “xyz still works” and then blocking.

Update (2023-05-29): Andrew Logan:

Amir Shevat, Twitter’s former head of product for the developer platform, who lives in Round Rock, was responsible for ensuring that the tools Twitter provided independent software developers using the platform met their needs. He said about 17 percent of engagement on Twitter, historically, was through third-party apps, which played a vital role in defining Twitter’s identity.


A few days after Tweetbot and other third-party clients stopped working, Twitter retroactively updated its developer agreement with language that banned third-party clients. (When Texas Monthly reached out to Twitter via email for an interview on this story, Twitter replied with a poop emoji.) Experts speculate Musk killed third-party clients because they don’t contribute to ad revenue, which has declined as much as 89 percent since Musk purchased the company, according to Bloomberg.

John Gruber:

Obviously the overwhelming number of Twitter users only ever used Twitter’s own first-party clients. The reason third-party clients were so important to Twitter, though, is that Twitter power users were drawn to them.

Matt Birchler:

17% is actually much higher than I expected, especially after years of seeing many people dismiss third party apps as effectively just something that like 100 nerds used but don’t actually matter.

16 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

Sadly I'm officially done with Twitter then too.

Twitter interface is horrible. Just boicot Twitter. End of story!

Any other company and i would have thought that they'd examined traffic and made sure that this was a sensible decision.

Twitter under Musk though...😂

I suspect the number of users on third part clients is very small percentage wise.

I also suspect they are the most heavy and savvy and influential users.

I understand how Musk wants as revenue and the ability to quickly add (and remove unaucces) features and control over the client makes it easy.

But this was handled in the worst absolute way one could think of which is consistent with everything they’ve done but still absolute garbage.

I am sorry for the excellent developers and small businesses getting screwed by this and wish them success in their next efforts.

They missed on the opportunity to instead limit API access to blue-check accounts... At least that would have been consistent...

>The loss of ongoing, recurring revenue from Twitterrific is already going to hurt our business significantly, and any refunds will come directly out of our pockets – not Twitter’s and not Apple’s

Cry me a river. That was your business decision to agree to App Store terms.

> Cry me a river. That was your business decision to agree to App Store terms.

What does this have to do with the App Store? Twitter revoked the access, and Icon Factory accepted yearly payments for software built on an API that could be revoked at any time. Apple sucks for skimming 30% off the top, but what would you suggest they do? Ban refunds? Cover the cost?

To be clear, I don’t think people should request refunds. From my perspective, the clients still work fine, and it’s Twitter that is broken. Would you argue that the Icon Factory should refund the subscription of someone who gets banned from Twitter?

Old Unix Geek

> Cry me a river. That was your business decision to agree to App Store terms.

I'm curious what makes you tick, bob.

The people at Iconfactory spent a lot of time and effort making Twitterific. Apparently many of their users loved that product. They clearly were not sure about the wisdom of continuing to support Twitter ("Our users are some of the most dedicated, loyal, and wonderful people we’ve ever encountered, and if it wasn’t for them, we might have already bowed out of supporting Twitter.") but continued because of the users.

Now I happen to disagree with their views on Twitter -- I think it has improved since I believe in freedom of speech good, and despise censorship.

I also happen to dislike the App Store's rules, and therefore no longer develop for it.

However I cannot understand why you seem to hate IconFactory. Some of their employees may lose their jobs because of this, through no fault of their own.

Why do you feel that it is your right to kick people when they are down just because they set up a business to create something that benefits others? Is there some sort of moral law that people working for a living are inferior and do not even deserve any respect or compassion? I don't get it.

@Ghost I’ve seen some other comments like this, and I don’t really think it comes down to bad choices they made (relying on Twitter API, relying on the App Store, subscriptions) or that there’s much Apple could do, either. Every sofware product can possibly stop working for reasons outside the developer’s control. Even if there is no external service that could disappear, the hardware and OS are always changing. Any app could be removed from the App Store or have subsequent updates rejected. Even subscriptions are kind of a red herring because customers also expect an up-front purchase to keep working and will request a refund if it doesn’t.

"I think it has improved since I believe in freedom of speech good, and despise censorship"

Then why do you think Musk randomly banning everybody he personally doesn't like, including journalists critical of him, has improved Twitter? FFS, Musk just shut down Twitter Spaces altogether when he didn't like what people said about him. Twitter banned people like Chad Loder, Kathy Griffins, Chris Kluwe, and many more. He banned the elonjet account, which just republished publicly available information. He banned a bunch of obvious parody accounts. He also banned links to other social media accounts, and banned accounts like Paul Graham's for promoting Mastodon. He banned Keith Olbermann, Aaron Rupar, Susan Li, and tons of others reporters.

After a poll, he reinstated most of them, but how is it free speech if other people get to vote on whether you get to talk?

I mean, personally, I don't particularly care. Twitter sucked before, and it sucks now, and the sooner it dies, the better for everybody. Centralized platforms can never work if your goal is a free exchange of ideas. But if you look at Twitter and somehow think "yep, now this is free speech", the only thing you've proven is that you don't care about free speech. You only care about free speech for people who think like you.

I do agree, though: leave Iconfactory alone and don't get a refund. We need companies like them, and if Twitter's screwups killed them, that would suck.

"I think [Twitter] has improved since I believe in freedom of speech good, and despise censorship."

Either we have diametrically opposite understandings of free speech and censorship, or you haven't really been following along.

(p.s. I'm not "bob", with whom I also disagree.)

Old Unix Geek


Instead of presuming I don't care about free speech, which I do, it might be more constructive to presume that different people have different experiences.

You mention a litany of people I've never heard of, except Paul Graham and Keith Olbermann. Since, of these, I only pay attention to Paul Graham, he's the one whose suspension I might have noticed, but I didn't.

People I do pay attention to have reappeared. Moreover the Twitter files show that the previous management of Twitter banned anyone the FBI/DHS didn't like. The fact that this information is coming out suggests the current management of Twitter does not intend to assist the government in violating the 1st amendment. Since I believe in free speech, I think that is a good thing.

To be fair, on the negative side of the ledger, one person I pay attention to was removed last week after having been allowed again. I hope this was a mistake, for instance a false positive of an anti-bot algorithm. Automation has its downsides.

It is also true that I'm cutting the new Twitter some slack. I'm doing so because Twitter was becoming less and less useful to me before it was bought. It became an echo chamber. And I expect it to take time before it is fixed, just as it took time to degenerate: all sorts of people are now doing things that are new to them. They'll need time to learn their new jobs. I'm currently positive about it, because Twitter is fixing its mistakes, for instance unbanning people it shouldn't have banned.

(There seems to be a limit on how many characters I can post, so I'm trying a many part message).

Old Unix Geek

Obviously people who were happy with the way things were won't cut Twitter any slack. They may even try to harm it by trying to inspire a mass movement away to other platforms. I see a lot of that, particularly among Mac devs who are congregating on Mastodon. (Previously people left Twitter and went elsewhere because they had been banned).

Moving to a decentralized platform like Mastodon might actually be a good thing. It might prove harder to censor. Having good clients for it might help. Time will tell.

Also, Twitter might end up failing. Perhaps the censorious governments will win and force it to become an echo chamber for their views again. For instance the EU made all sorts of threats when Elon got rid of Twitter's "moderators". (Most recently here. So much for "Western democracy" -- if the demos is propagandized, it doesn't matter what it votes for). Again, we'll have to wait and see.

@Michael Tsai

“I’ve seen some other comments like this, and I don’t really think it comes down to bad choices they made”

Just to clarify, I agree with you. I don’t think the Iconfactory made a bad choice or did something they shouldn’t have. Twitter is 100% in the wrong here.

While I disagree with the argument that the Iconfactory is responsible for their ability to access the Twitter API, I can at least comprehend it. But blaming them for accepting the terms of the App Store? That is what is incomprehensible to me.

In any case, I hope people don’t refund. I can’t see how a $5-10 refund is worth kicking a developer while they’re down, but I guess people feel a sense of entitlement.

Old Unix Geek

On cutting Twitter slack, this is interesting.

That Old Unix Geek is happy with Musk's Twitter says all there is to know about both.

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