Paul McDonald, the founder of ÜberTwitter, a popular Twitter app for the BlackBerry, has said that Twitter’s newly released BlackBerry app uses closed APIs that other apps can’t use, in a comment to Loic Le Meur’s blog.
An Application Programming Interface or API is the set of software commands that an application uses to access another app’s functionality: so applications for Mac OS X use Mac OS X’s APIs; a Twitter app uses Twitter’s API to pull tweets from Twitter’s servers to show them to you, and send them to Twitter when you post something, and so on. You need APIs to build an app on top of something or to work with something.
Why does this matter?
McDonald alleges that Twitter’s new BlackBerry app used closed APIs, i.e. APIs that regular, third party developers don’t have access to, to access things like menu icons and the new file picker dialog. This would mean that Twitter’s own app has functionality that other Twitter apps can’t match. McDonald adds that RIM, the maker of the BlackBerry, is known to work with favoured developers to give them access to private APIs that most developers don’t get.
This is important because Twitter developers are freaked out that Twitter is taking over its app ecosystem, and crushing the business of many third-party developers, by coming out with its own BlackBerry app, and acquiring Tweetie, the most popular Twitter app on iPhone, to call it “Twitter for iPhone” and release it for free. Twitter has backtracked in recent days, saying it would stop calling its own apps “official” Twitter apps, and that its moves have been to grow the service and, therefore, grow the ecosystem as a whole.
If Twitter worked with RIM to get access to private APIs for its own app, though, that means that its own apps, if not “official,” are certainly more equal than others.
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