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Twitterrific, Tweetbot and other clients begin offloading their apps after Twitter shuts them out

Update (21/01/2023 2:30 PM IST): After publishing the story, both Tweetbot and Fenix have been removed from the App Store, too. The headline has been changed to reflect that. 

In a tweet, Tweetbot-maker Tapbots said that the company has been "proud to serve you over the last 12+ years, but due to circumstances beyond our control, we have to shut down Tweetbot." 

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Twitterrific, one of the most iconic third-party Twitter clients, said today that it has removed the iOS and Mac apps from the App Store. Iconfactory, the company that made Twitterrific, said in a blog post that under Elon Musk's management, the social media network has become "a Twitter that we no longer recognize as trustworthy nor want to work with any longer."

The app has had a rich association with Twitter. It was one of the first mobile and desktop clients for the platform, and it helped form the word "Tweet." In fact, Twitterrific was built back in 2007 — even before Twitter made its own iOS app.

Twitterrific's demise comes after Twitter intentionally started blocking third-party clients last Friday without any explanation. Earlier this week, the TwitterDev account posted that the company had been suspending these apps in breach of "its longstanding API rules." But it didn't specify which rules were broken.

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Late Thursday, Twitter updated its developer terms to list “use or access the Licensed Materials to create or attempt to create a substitute or similar service or product to the Twitter Applications.” under restricted usage of its APIs. Not long-standing at all. That move essentially kills third-party apps.

But Twitterrific is not alone. A ton of other apps have started to remove or are preparing to remove their apps from different app stores. Paul Haddad, who is a co-creator of Tweetbot, told TechCrunch in an email that the company has already pulled the Mac client from the App Store and the iOS app will follow soon.

Despite Twitter's announcement, some Twitter clients are still working, but it's probably just a matter of time before the company suspends them.

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Image Credits: Twitter/TweenApp (opens in a new window)

While Twitter hasn't given an explanation for this move, it could be to exert control over users and force them to use its own clients.

Third-party clients have added so much to Twitter as a platform. Tweetie, an app Twitter acquired in 2010, was behind the pull to refresh the timeline feature that everyone is familiar with. Twitterrific has contributed to things like the bird logo, character count and conversations (replies). It's sad to see Musk & co. not valuing developers that give users an option to experience the platform in different ways.

Twitter's bad blood with developers

Twitter has had a long history of disregarding developers contributing to the ecosystem. The company started restricting third-party Twitter clients in 2012. Two years later, it curtailed access to its firehose data by terminating agreements with partners.

One of the classic examples of Twitter ignoring non-native clients is Tweetdeck, a company that it acquired in 2011. The company shut down Tweetdeck for Mac last year and has been testing a new web version with a select number of users. But given how Musk has handled the company, there is not much hope for a full release.

In the last few years, the social media company started rebuilding trust with developers. In 2020, it launched a new API with multiple access levels to cater to many developer use cases. In 2022, it launched Twitter Toolbox, a way to showcase and promote third-party apps. In an interview with TechCrunch, Amir Shevat, who was heading developer platforms at Twitter at the time, said that the company is exploring building some kind of app store.

But all that came crashing down after Musk took over the company. Twitter Toolbox and many other developer projects are no longer going ahead.

Last month, in a column for TechCrunch, Shevat (who is no longer at the company) wrote that the new Twitter management broke the trust of developers. He also criticized the way the company is now communicating with developers.

The way ahead

Developers are heartbroken by this move as the pro and premium subscription to their apps contributed to their income, and now it's suddenly gone. Some have already started on other projects. Tweetbot maker Tapbots is building a Mastadon client called Ivory and aims to release it soon. Fenix developer Matteo Villa has also released a test version of his Mastadon app called Wooly.

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Twitter's move might throw off other developers who make tools for the platform. In December, composer apps like Typefully and Chir App told TechCrunch that while they were cautious, they want to continue to develop for Twitter. Content moderation tool Bodyguard also noted that it wanted to scale back Twitter-related development. With the latest step of leaving third-party clients high and dry, other developers might pull back on their projects around Twitter.

You can contact this reporter on Signal and WhatsApp at +91 816-951-8403 or im@ivanmehta.com by email.