After Twitter announced some tough new rules for third-party developers last week, it remains unclear precisely what those changes might mean for the future of your favorite third-party Twitter client.
While the rule changes don't ban third-party Twitter apps outright, they do set forth tough caps on any new such clients, which must max out at 100,000 users unless they receive special permission from Twitter. Existing apps can continue to function, and instead face a cap of precisely double their current user bases as of last week. Other new policies Twitter outlined include sharper limits on what functionality apps can offer, how tweets must be displayed, and what actions can be linked to those tweets.
Macworld has spoken with several developers behind third-party Twitter apps--or at least, we've tried. Some developers are notably hesitant to speak on the record, lest they incur Twitter's wrath; the fear seems to be that since Twitter is now exerting more control than ever over access to its API--which developers leverage to make their Twitter apps work--that irking Twitter too much might result in a developer's API access getting revoked.
We also contacted Twitter for this article; the company has not responded.
It's possible that Twitter's developer crackdown will be a boon to upstart competitors like App.net, a paid service that aims to offer a microblogging platform free from advertisements and developer limitations of the sort that Twitter has put forth. But should Twitter devotees who use and enjoy existing third-party clients be concerned that their favorite apps will be forced to shutter their virtual doors?
The future soon
Macworld asked The Iconfactory's Craig Hockenberry about what the future holds for his company's Mac and iOS Twitter client, Twitterrific. "Wish we knew," he replied. The good news for Twitterrific, Hockenberry said, is that "since we've been around for awhile, our user token cap is pretty high," meaning there's no immediate danger that the app will run out of users it can support. "But as with any limited resource, there will be time in the future where we hit the cap. It will likely take many years for that to happen, but when it does we'll have to stop selling the app."
Some users are concerned that the artificial growth limits now mandated by Twitter could mean that companies like The Iconfactory might, by necessity, stop supporting their apps in the long term; it could be hard to justify investing further time and funds into innovating and improving apps that now face limits on just how many people they can reach.
"We've been working on an update for the past six months and are happy that we're going to be able to ship that work," Hockenberry said, adding that the company had been concerned that Twitter might have simply shut off API access entirely for third-party developers. But after releasing the already in-progress update, he says, "we'll have to look at how many new users we get before deciding how much of a future it has."
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