When writing about App.net earlier in the week, I said this regarding Twitter:
It (Twitter) is my social and all-things-tech news RSS feed. It’s a vital part of my day and how I digest content. It’s a service that I don’t think I could let go of. The current selection of third party clients are great, and Twitter has not done anything too disruptive (yet) for me to pull the plug on it.
With the recent 1.1 changes to the Twitter API announced last night, the “yet” could have not been more appropriate in that sentence.
To say this has blindsided us would not be fair. We knew changes were coming, but we didn’t know how severe they would be.
The best analysis of the new “Rules of the Road” that I have read so far, comes from Marco Arment — the creator of Instapaper and of early Tumblr fame. He gets straight to the point to explain what we could be losing or what could change. And from what I have read, I am not liking most of it.
Tweetbot and Instapaper for iOS are the two most used apps on my devices. Potentially not being able to send articles to Instapaper within a Twitter client would be reason enough for me to stop using the service or at least check it very infrequently.
Third-party clients have also gotten more strict guidelines to follow. If you are currently a third-party Twitter client, when the new API is in infect, once you double your user base, you must ask Twitter to allow you to accept more members. Twitter could tell you no or give you more user tokens. And what if you and your team have been working on a game changer client? Entering the space is even harder. New clients will only be allowed up to 100,000 user tokens until you have to get permission to add more. It’s funny that third party clients are getting so many more restrictions from Twitter. John Gruber says it best:
And don’t even get me started on Twitter turning against client apps. For chrissake Twitter’s own app started life as a third-party client.
It is ironic timing that this would happen a couple of days after App.net is funded and still accepting sign ups. The ad-free Twitter-like service is looking a lot more attractive to many, including myself, after this.
Unfortunately, the reality is, the majority of Twitter’s users do not care about this change nor would ever notice a difference in the service. As long as they can follow their favorite celebrity and discuss The Jersey Shore then it’s fine with them. Once again, the nerds are the ones who are having to fight for a service that could have stayed great. Maybe it is truly a time for a change in the social space.