Twitter has made an announcement that irks a number of third-party developers that have built apps around the platform. Several Twitter APIs that third-party apps like Tweetbot and Twitterific depend on are being shut down. And some third-party apps will specifically lose the ability to refresh feeds and send push notifications to users. These apps will still be usable, but it could potentially make them less appealing to its users.
Why is Twitter making these changes? Twitter said that it is no longer practical to maintain the legacy APIs. “We are sunsetting very old, legacy software that we don’t have an ability go keep supporting for practical reasons,” said Twitter’s group product manager Ian Caims via Mashable. However, Twitter has not created new APIs with similar functionality.
Twitter has always had a major love-hate relationship with third-party developers. For example, Twitter has acquired and integrated a number of third-party services such as TweetDeck, Summize, Tweetie, and Twitpic. But by shutting off its APIs, it substantially hinders the growth of other Twitter-related apps.
“It is now time to make the hard decision to end support for these legacy APIs — acknowledging that some aspects of these apps would be degraded as a result. Today, we are facing technical and business constraints we can’t ignore,” said Johnson in an email to Twitter staff leaked to TechCrunch. “The User Streams and Site Streams APIs that serve core functions of many of these clients have been in a ‘beta’ state for more than 9 years, and are built on a technology stack we no longer support. We’re not changing our rules, or setting out to ‘kill’ 3rd party clients; but we are killing, out of operational necessity, some of the legacy APIs that power some features of those clients. And it has not been a realistic option for us today to invest in building a totally new service to replace these APIs, which are used by less than 1% of Twitter developers.”
Johnson also said that the “best Twitter experience” that the company can provide is through the Twitter for iOS and Android apps along with the desktop and mobile.twitter.com. One of the reasons why is because Periscope and Moments are not supported in third-party apps.
However, Twitter said that it will remain committed to an open platform and will invest in its developer ecosystem and existing developer APIs.