The nerds (myself included) have been getting pretty antsy about Twitter’s increasing restrictions on third-party apps. We love our third-party apps like Twitterrific and Tweetbot (and I am sure my Android friends have their favorites, too).
Because, frankly, third-party Twitter apps have offered the best in class experience to date. Let’s loosely recap how Twitter’s experience has changed over the years.
- There’s the website, which offered the bare necessities, and text messaging, which is still enabled (and is the basis of the 140 character limit). I even know people who still solely use text messaging as their interaction with Twitter, which boggles my mind.
- Twitter released an API for developers to make apps with. One of the first was Twitterrific for Mac. Twitterrific was truly my first experience with using Twitter. It has been my primary way of using Twitter for the entirety of my time on the service.
- Users and the developers of third-party apps came up with ways to modify the Twitter experience, almost all of which made their way back as an official API within Twitter. Examples include @replies, hashtags, direct messages, and retweets. These are all things Twitter did not pioneer, but they are essential to its experience today.
- Third-party apps have dominated the best in class experience throughout Twitter’s history. A couple years ago the king of the hill was Tweetie, which Twitter bought and renamed as the official Twitter client. Once again, Twitter did not pioneer the best in class experience, they simply bought it.
- Twitterrific and Tweetbot, at least on iOS and the Mac, have made fantastic experiences respectively by making apps for the iPhone, iPad, and Mac that share the same general look and feel, and sync last read positions across the three platforms. Best in class.
- Twitter, however, gutted what was once known as Tweetie and left a dim shadow of the best in class app that it once was. Their interface across platforms is extremely fragmented. On Apple’s devices alone, the experience on the iPhone is wildly different from the iPad, and both are very different from the Mac.
- Twitter’s official Mac app hasn’t been updated since two full OS X versions ago. It doesn’t support any features from OS X Lion, much less Mountain Lion, which ironically has Twitter support built into the entire system. (It obviously isn’t retina-ready, either, so it is an eyesore for Apple’s flagship Mac).
- Now Twitter is slowly strangling off third-party apps, and catering to braaaaands through promoted tweets and promoted accounts.
I don’t think I would feel so morose about Twitter’s actions to stifle third-party apps if Twitter itself offered the best in class experience. If Twitter’s experience was far and away better than what third-parties have come up with, there would hardly be an argument to make.
Twitter doesn’t even leverage its own streaming technology in its mobile apps. Tweetbot does and it’s awesome. And what about things like Tweetmarker? Twitterrific and Tweetbot use this to keep timelines in sync at the user’s “last read” position. With Tweetmarker, I can easily launch a client on Mac, iPhone, or iPad and pick up where I left off.
What if Twitter made best in class apps on all their platforms, using their streaming feature when appropriate, and rolled a Tweetmarker-like feature across all their apps and the web? Well, for starters, it would make the service just that much better. Secondly, it would make the deprecation of third-party apps hurt less.
The fact is Twitter doesn’t seem to care about having the best experience, they care now about being the only experience.
And if your experience is the only experience, I suppose the majority of users won’t know that it could be so much better.