Twitter just made it very clear: It no longer wants developers making new Twitter “client” apps.
And any existing third-party clients — like TweetDeck, Twitterrific, or UberSocial — had better play by Twitter’s strict rules and consistency guidelines, or it’s game over.
This as Twitter continues to aggressively take control over more of its ecosystem, leaving developers with different — but finally clear — instructions on where their efforts are now welcome.
Twitter’s latest mandate comes in the form of a discussion forum post from platform staffer Ryan Sarver. (This seems like an obscure place to make such a bold announcement, but perhaps Twitter will post it elsewhere eventually.)
He starts off by describing how Twitter use has tripled over the past year (to 140 million tweets per day, from 48 million), how Twitter has been taking over the client experience to promote consistency (by buying Tweetie for the iPhone and releasing its own apps for Android, Mac, etc.), and some examples of where consistency is important, such as Twitter verbiage and design.
He then says:
“Developers have told us that they’d like more guidance from us about the best opportunities to build on Twitter. More specifically, developers ask us if they should build client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience. The answer is no.”
Then Sarver goes into a bunch of areas where Twitter encourages development, such as publisher tools, curation, data analysis, enterprise, social CRM, and “vertical experiences.”
This is probably the right move for Twitter as a company. A consistent user experience is important — Twitter is still confusing enough already. And if Twitter is going to build a big ad business, it ought to own as much of the “client” experience as it can. That means finding every opportunity to control and reduce the competition, such as this one.
But it still strikes us as slightly off, given how important third-party developers were in defining the Twitter client ecosystem in the first place, designing key features, evolving and improving how Twitter clients work, etc.
But that’s why it’s better to be the platform owner, like Twitter is, and Apple, and Facebook, than a platform guest.
And really, it’s just the latest way Twitter has become a more mature company and ecosystem.
What was once fertile ground for developers now belongs to Twitter Inc., and the company wants to leave no room for doubt.
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