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Update: Twitter clamps down on client apps

By Juan Carlos Perez
March 14, 2011 04:51 PM ET

IDG News Service -

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.

Moreover, developers of existing client applications should brace for stricter enforcement of terms and conditions, as Twitter strives to make the overall user experience more uniform and of higher quality.

That was the message Ryan Sarver, from Twitter's application development team, relayed over the weekend on an official Twitter discussion forum for developers.

"Developers have told us that they'd like more guidance from us about the best opportunities to build on Twitter. More specifically, developers ask us if they should build client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience. The answer is no," Sarver wrote in a post titled "Consistency and ecosystem opportunities."

"If you are an existing developer of client apps, you can continue to serve your user base, but we will be holding you to high standards to ensure you do not violate users' privacy, that you provide consistency in the user experience, and that you rigorously adhere to all areas of our Terms of Service," he added.

Twitter has also modified its developer terms accordingly and provided more details about this topic in that document.

Responses to Sarver's post have so far been mostly negative.

"All third party Twitter developers, no matter what they make, are now walking on eggshells, constantly at risk of

offending Twitter's ideas of how users should interact with Twitter," wrote one developer, echoing similar sentiments from others commenting on the discussion thread.

Reached via e-mail, Duane Roelands said he is now discouraged from further enhancing his Twitter client application Quitter, which he had considered upgrading with support for international characters.

"In light of Mr. Sarver's announcement, it seems like a waste of time. Why would I invest time and effort in enhancing an application that Twitter is going to disallow? There are no clear and concise guidelines that I can use to determine whether or not my client is going to run afoul of the new rules," said Roelands, lead developer for Akcelerant Software in Malvern, Pennsylvania.

Tensions between Twitter and its community of third-party developers have been worsening over the past 12 to 15 months, when Twitter started taking a more active role in building out its previously sparse menu of native features.

For the first four years or so of its existence, Twitter relied heavily on -- and encouraged -- external developers to provide extra functionality around its bare-bones microblogging service.

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.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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