In case there was any doubt about Twitter’s intentions to remove third-party app developers, the company has quietly updated its developer agreement to make it clear that app creators can no longer create their own clients.
The “restrictions” section of Twitter’s developer agreement was updated Thursday with a clause that prohibits “using or accessing the Licensed Materials to create or attempt to create a substitute or similar product or service for the Twitter Applications.” The addition is the only substantive change to the 5,000-word agreement.
The change confirms what the creators of many popular Twitter clients have suspected in recent days: that third-party Twitter services are no longer allowed under the leadership of Elon Musk.
Twitter previously mentioned it was “enforcing longstanding API rules”, but had not cited which rules the developers were violating. The company no longer has a communications team, and most of the employees working on its development platform were also cut during the company’s mass layoffs last year.
But the company’s suggestion that the rule was “longstanding” doesn’t line up with its history. Twitter clients have been a part of Twitter for a long time. Twitterrific, one of the most prominent apps affected by the API shutdown last week, was created before Twitter had its own native iOS app, and is credited with coining the word “tweet” as well as other features that they are now commonly associated. with the Twitter app.
In recent years, clients like Tweetbot and Fenix have had a dedicated following due to the lack of ads and other features that many longtime users dislike. In fact, Twitter previously changed its developer policies in 2021 to remove a section that discouraged — but did not prohibit — app makers from “replicating” their core service. The change was part of a broader change by Twitter to improve its relationship with developers, including third-party client builders.
That strategy appears to be officially over, as developers whose apps have been cut have yet to receive any communication from anyone on Twitter about the policy changes. “It’s not totally unexpected, but the lack of communication is a bit insulting,” Matteo Villa, the Fenix developer, tells Engadget.
Villa has already pulled the Android version of Fenix from the Play Store, but notes that the iOS version of his app still has API access, at least for now. “I stuck with an app that works well on iOS that people are still buying, but I wonder if I should retire that too,” he says.
Other developers have also started to withdraw their apps. Twitterrific’s Sean Heber confirmed in a blog post that the 16-year-old app has been discontinued. “We’re sorry to say that the app’s sudden and undignified disappearance is due to an unannounced and undocumented policy change by an increasingly capricious Twitter, a Twitter we no longer recognize as trustworthy or want to work with anymore,” Heber wrote in an update.
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