Here's why Twitter crippled apps like Tweetbot and Twitterrific

Twitter needs to focus on Twitter.

Marrian Zhou Staff Reporter
Marrian Zhou is a Beijing-born Californian living in New York City. She joined CNET as a staff reporter upon graduation from Columbia Journalism School. When Marrian is not reporting, she is probably binge watching, playing saxophone or eating hot pot.
Marrian Zhou
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Twitter's API changes will cripple third-party Twitter apps.


Sorry Tweetbot, Twitterrific and the host of other third-party Twitter apps, the social network is moving on without you. 

Fan-favorite apps like Tweetbot, which offers an alternative way to access your Twitter feed, have lost several core features thanks to changes made to Twitter's platform. Tweetbot specifically lost instant timeline streaming on Wi-Fi, and push notifications for likes, retweets, follows and quotes.

The change comes as Twitter focuses more on improving its own apps, according to a blog post by Rob Johnson, Twitter's senior director of data. On Thursday, he also tweeted an internal email further explaining the decision to make these changes.

"In 2011, we told developers not to build apps that mimic the core Twitter experience," wrote Johnson. "Today, we're facing technical and business constraints we can't ignore."

The email said that despite the great run with the apps, Twitter now needs to focus on growing its own business. The email also said that the User Streams and Site Streams application programming interface tools -- the way apps can talk with Twitter -- that supported the core functions of some of the third-party apps have been around for nine years, and are so old that Twitter's new programs don't support them anymore.

Talon, Tweetbot, Tweetings, Twitterific and other third-party developers have started a campaign, Apps of a Feather, to protest the API change. The campaign asks users to write to Twitter to complain about the change.

However, the changes have been expected for months. Twitter said in April that it would delay its plan to pull support for apps such as , Tweetbot, Tweetings and Twitterrific. The date for phasing out support, which would effectively cripple the third-party apps, was set for June 19. It was delayed to give developers "ample time to migrate to the new API," Twitter said.

Gedeon Maheux, the lead designer of Twitterrific creator Iconfactory, said the API changes were regrettable though understandable.

"We understand the spread of bots, spam and trolls by bad actors that exploit [Twitter's] old APIs is bad for the entire Twitterverse," Maheux said in an email statement. "App's like the Iconfactory's Twitterrific helped build Twitter's brand, our contributions were small to be sure, but real none-the-less."

Some third-party developers have different opinions about Twitter's API change crippling third party apps.

"This change is going to have very little effect on Talon," Luke Klinker, owner of Talon creator Klinker Apps, said in an email. "I do not think that these specific changes will affect the viability of any apps, long term. They are not destroying any functionality that can't be replaced through other methods."

Twitter's API change rolled out on Thursday and finish by Aug. 23, according to an Iconfactory blog post.

Tweetings and Tweetbot didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

First published Aug. 15, 3:53 p.m. PT.

Update, Aug. 16 at 11:21 a.m. PT: Adds Twitter's response through the blog post and the internal email. 

Updated, Aug. 16 at 6:05 p.m. PT: Adds that some of the third-party apps have started to lose key features due to the software change.

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