Recently twitter announced their new rules for using the API. Tons of angry and unhappy developers and journalists wrote that these limitations may kill businesses, and will certainly make the twitter platform less open. I won’t repeat all these articles. It is obvious why this is a bad move, and how it will kill legitimate and useful apps. Twitter think this will guarantee them that people use twitter on their own premises, thus giving them the desired revenue. I won’t even go into details of why this is a stupid assumption (you can have ads on other services as well). I will focus on the aim twitter has set, and how limiting the API is nonsense.
Twitter claim they want a unified twitter experience, that’s why they enforce tons of rules, so that you interact with twitter in the same way everywhere. So you can’t have any additional buttons, any additional information and you can’t position buttons in a different way. And if you do, twitter will revoke your API access. But let me tell you something – companies can still do that – there can be additional buttons and information even for users browsing your own twitter.com. How? With browser add-ons. They can manipulate what is displayed on screen. So, if twitter decide to disallow the usage of the unified “reshare” button of my service, I can make an add-on for Firefox and Chrome that puts that button on twitter.com and does not require API access at all. Virtually any “offending” application can do that. The question is – why would we have to rewrite stuff? Do twitter realize that they are not doing anything with these restrictions, apart from generating more work for developers? “But users will be aware that they are using a plugin that modifies twitter.com”, you might say. Most likely – true, but I bet users of hootsuite or welshare are quite aware that they are not on twitter.com and things might look a bit different.
And to view it that way – the fact that they are trying to control the presentation by restricting API access is an odd choice.
While I’m still waiting for response from twitter about some features of my service, I hope twitter will get the feedback from the thousands of articles, including this one, and will revert their policy changes.