What is Twitter Thinking?It appears that you can hardly check Twitter these days without someone tweeting about how terrible Twitter’s decisions to bring in the reigns on third-party app developers taking advantage of its robust API. Twitter has always come across as a platform for other platforms. I rarely go to Twitter.com, and it’s even more rare that I interact directly with the service to check messages or reply to tweets.

I may be the average Twitter user in this regard. It’s been a while since I’ve seen someone tweet without having done so from some type of external application. Perhaps that was Twitter’s initial goal from the start, but it certainly can’t be good for revenue generation.

Who pays for the millions of tweets sent every day? The servers required to send and receive data from its ~500 million registered users must cost a fortune. Add to that the demands of bandwidth and maintenance, and you have a company that has all the signs of a terrible financial failure.

So Twitter implemented promotional tweets allowing people to pay to have their tweets appear at the top of user’s feeds. This was a brilliant idea, but how well are third-party applications supporting this? Frankly, I don’t remember seeing a promoted tweet in a third-party app’s timeline at all.

Twitter isn’t a charity, public utility, or even a non-profit venture. It’s a business, and profit means everything.

Perhaps this latest response is Twitter’s way of cutting away the freeloaders and concentrating on supporting users and third-party developers that are willing to support it by allowing advertising and other revenue-generating features. In any case, the question that should be on everyone’s mind is how these changes are having an impact on the average user. It’s easy to get upset and threaten boycotts and other actions over a company taking actions that upset the developer community, but how many users really feel the impact of these changes?

Third-Party Apps Users

I’m not going to go into detail about which apps are and aren’t going to survive Twitter’s decision to tighten the slack previously given to app publishers. Frankly, I’m glad the company is doing it and I hope third-party developers manage to bring their apps up to snuff and continue producing excellent programs for years to come. Unfortunately, Twitter has let app developers run wild with its service for far too long.

As much as I love open and free platforms, Twitter is neither of these things. It’s a business that requires profit to continue operating. Twitter isn’t a charity, public utility, or even a non-profit venture. It’s a business, and profit means everything.

For most users, these changes mean very little. Their apps may not be updated as quickly as they otherwise would, and fans of beta releases could be disappointed. In the end, Twitter is doing what’s best for Twitter, even if that means taking out some third-party apps in the process.

Some apps, like Flipboard, may lose out on the whole deal. Its new restrictions limiting the amount of users that can use an app to 100,000 (unless Twitter deems the app worthy of a limit boost) poses a risk to other apps that don’t quite meet Twitter’s standards.

Most users will remain unaware or unaffected by these changes. Apps will continue to be developed and Twitter will continue to operate as it has for the past five+ years. The only big difference is you may see a lot less new Twitter apps hit the market as developers concentrate their efforts on something with a friendlier API.


Developers are feeling the impact of these changes more than anyone. Developers and development companies depend on services like Twitter and Facebook for social integration. Not being able to develop a client with more than a certain number of users or having to deal with fluctuating API terms in general are an issue in this market.

It makes sense that Twitter wants more people to use its apps or visit its website for advertising reasons, though this poses a challenge to companies that have based their entire revenue model off Twitter and similar services.

Even Tumblr has not evaded the scope of these changes. Users used to be able to find friends from Twitter and add them on Tumblr. Without the old API, this feature is no longer available. This may change, but for now it’s a value-add that Tumblr can’t boast to its users. A shame, really, but yes, a reasonable one for a company that is being bled dry by third-party apps putting it to work.

Do you feel a direct impact by Twitter’s API changes? Leave a comment below and let us know how this has affected you. Do you use a third-party app that has been put out to pasture? Are you a developer yourself? Please let us know.

Photo: Twitter