6 million users had installed third-party Twitter clients

Twitter tried to downplay the impact deactivating its legacy APIs would have on its community and the third-party Twitter clients preferred by many power users by saying that “less than 1%” of Twitter developers were using these old APIs. Twitter is correct in its characterization of the size of this developer base, but it’s overlooking millions of third-party app users in the process. According to data from Sensor Tower, six million App Store and Google Play users installed the top five third-party Twitter clients between January 2014 and July 2018.

Over the past year, these top third-party apps were downloaded 500,000 times.

This data is largely free of reinstalls, the firm also said.

The top third-party Twitter apps users installed over the past three-and-a-half years have included: Twitterrific, Echofon, TweetCaster, Tweetbot and Ubersocial.

Of course, some portion of those users may have since switched to Twitter’s native app for iOS or Android, or they may run both a third-party app and Twitter’s own app in parallel.

Even if only some of these six million users remain, they represent a small, vocal and — in some cases, prominent — user base. It’s one that is very upset right now, too. And for a company that just posted a loss of one million users during its last earnings, it seems odd that Twitter would not figure out a way to accommodate this crowd, or even bring them on board its new API platform to make money from them.

Twitter, apparently, was weighing data and facts, not user sentiment and public perception, when it made this decision. But some things have more value than numbers on a spreadsheet. They are part of a company’s history and culture. Of course, Twitter has every right to blow all that up and move on, but that doesn’t make it the right decision.

To be fair, Twitter is not lying when it says this is a small group. The third-party user base is tiny compared with Twitter’s native app user base. During the same time that six million people were downloading third-party apps, the official Twitter app was installed a whopping 560 million times across iOS and Android. That puts the third-party apps’ share of installs at about 1.1 percent of the total.

That user base may have been shrinking over the years, too. During the past year, while the top third-party apps were installed half a million times, Twitter’s app was installed 117 million times. This made third-party apps’ share only about 0.4 percent of downloads, giving the official app a 99 percent market share.

But third-party app developers and the apps’ users are power users. Zealots, even. Evangelists.

Twitter itself credited them with pioneering “product features we all know and love,” like the mute option, pull-to-refresh and more. That means the apps’ continued existence brings more value to Twitter’s service than numbers alone can show.

Image credit: iMore

They are part of Twitter’s history. You can even credit one of the apps for Twitter’s logo! Initially, Twitter only had a typeset version of its name. Then Twitterrific came along and introduced a bird for its logo. Twitter soon followed.

Twitterrific was also the first to use the word “tweet,” which is now standard Twitter lingo. (The company used “twitter-ing.” Can you imagine?)

These third-party apps also play a role in retaining users who struggle with the new user experience Twitter has adopted — its algorithmic timeline. Instead, the apps offer a chronological view of tweets, as some continue to prefer.

Twitter’s decision to cripple these developers’ apps is shameful.

It shows a lack of respect for Twitter’s history, its power user base, its culture of innovation and its very own nature as a platform, not a destination.

P.S.:

twitterrific

Twitter Explains API Changes to Employees as Limits for Third-Party Apps Go Live

Twitter’s API changes went live today, disabling key features for third-party apps like Tweetbot and Twitterific.

The new API removes timeline streaming, preventing third-party apps from refreshing timelines automatically, and it limits push notifications and other features. Twitter is also charging exorbitant fees for access to its new activity APIs, with access starting at $2,899 per month for up to 250 accounts.



All third-party Twitter apps are affected by these changes. Tapbots yesterday updated the Tweetbot for iOS app to cripple multiple features popular with Tweetbot users. Timeline streaming over Wi-Fi is no longer available, for example, which means Twitter timelines will now refresh more slowly.

Push notifications for Mentions and Direct Messages are delayed by several minutes, and push notifications for likes, retweets, follows, and quotes have been disabled entirely. The Activity and Stats tabs, which were reliant on now-deprecated activity APIs, have been removed from the app, and because the Apple Watch app was heavily dependent on Activity data, it too has been eliminated.

Similar changes were introduced in Twitterrific in July, and as of today, the Twitterrific app is no longer able to receive and display native notifications. Twitterrific’s Today center widget and Apple Watch app relied on these features, and have been removed.

Twitterrific recommends Twitter users download the official Twitter app to receive their notifications, while using the Twitterrific app for everything else.

As the changes went live, Twitter today sent out a company-wide email to employees that starts out by acknowledging the huge impact that third-party Twitter clients have had on growing the Twitter service before pointing towards “technical and business constraints” that prevent it from continuing to offer the APIs necessary to keep these apps working as before.

Today, we will be publishing a blog post about our priorities for investing in Twitter client experiences. I wanted to share some insight into how we reached these decisions and how we’re thinking about 3rd party clients moving forward.

First, some history: 3rd party clients have had a notable impact on the Twitter service and the products we built. Independent developers built the first Twitter client for Mac and the first native app for iPhone. These clients pioneered product features we all know and love about Twitter such as mute, the pull-to-refresh gesture, and many more.

We love that developers build experiences on our APIs to push our service, technology, and the public conversation forward. We deeply respect the time, energy, and passion they’ve put into building amazing things using Twitter.

However, we haven’t always done a good job of being straightforward with developers about the decisions we make regarding 3rd party clients. In 2011, we told developers (in an email) not to build apps that mimic the core Twitter experience. In 2012, we announced changes to our developer policies intended to make these limitations clearer by capping the number of users allowed for a 3rd party client. And, in the years following those announcements, we’ve told developers repeatedly that our roadmap for our APIs does not prioritize client use cases — even as we’ve continued to maintain a couple specific APIs used heavily by these clients and quietly granted user cap exceptions to the clients that needed them.

It’s time to make the hard decision to end support for these legacy APIs — acknowledging that some aspects of these apps would be degraded as a result. Today, we are facing technical and business constraints we can’t ignore. The User Streams and Site Streams APIs that serve core functions of many of these clients have been in a “beta” state for more than 9 years, and are built on a technology stack we no longer support. We’re not changing our rules, or setting out to “kill” 3rd party clients; but we are killing, out of operational necessity, some of the legacy APIs that power some features of those clients. In addition, it hasn’t been realistic for us to invest in building a totally new service to replace all of the functionality of these APIs, which are used by less than 1% of Twitter developers.

We’ve heard feedback from our customers about the pain this causes. We review #BreakingMyTwitter quite often and have spoken with many of the developers of major 3rd party clients to understand their needs and concerns. We’re committed to understanding why people hire 3rd party clients over our own apps, and we’re going to try to do better with communicating these changes honestly and clearly to developers.

We know we have a lot of work to do. This change is a hard, but important step forward. Thank you for working with us to get there.

Twitter has continually said that just 1 percent of Twitter developers use its now-deprecated APIs, but as these changes seem to impact most of the major Twitter clients, it’s not clear how the 1 percent figure is being calculated.

As TechCrunch points out, Twitter’s email insists that the APIs were “legacy technology” that needed to be eliminated for “operational necessity,” but it’s Twitter, not an outside force, that has refused to maintain or redevelop the APIs third-party apps are using or transition existing apps over to the new API platform.



Twitter has further explained its decision to remove the APIs in a blog post that says the “best Twitter experience” it can provide is through its own “owned and operated Twitter for iOS and Android apps, as well as desktop and mobile twitter.com.”

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Google Firebase adds in-app messaging, JIRA integration, new reports and more

Firebase is now Google’s default platform for app developers and over the course of the last four years since it was acquired, the service has greatly expanded its feature set and integrations with our Google services. Today, it’s rolling out yet another batch of updates that bring new features, deeper integrations and a few design updates to the service.

The highlight of this release is the launch of in-app messaging, which will allow developers to send targeted and contextual messages to users as they use the app. Developers can customize the look and feel of these in-app notifications, which are rolling out today, but what’s maybe even more important is that this feature is integrated with Firebase Predictions and Google Analytics for Firebase so that developers can just react to current behavior but also Firebase’s predictions of how likely a user is to spend some additional money or stop using the app.

Developers who use Atlassian’s JIRA will also be happy to hear that Firebase is launching an integration with this tool. Firebase users can now create JIRA issues based on crash reports in Firebase. This integration will roll out in the next few weeks.

Another new integration is a deeper connection to Crashlytics, which Google acquired from Twitter in early 2017 (together with Fabric). Firebase will now let you export this data to BigQuery to analyze it — and then visualize it in Google’s Data Studio. And once it’s in BigQuery, it’s your data, so you’re not dependent on Firebase’s retention and deletion defaults.

Talking about reports, Firebase Cloud Messaging is getting a new reporting dashboard and the Firebase Console’s Project Overview page has received a full design overhaul that’ll allow you to see the health and status of your apps on a single page. The Latest Release section now also features live data. These features will start rolling out today and should become available to everybody in the next few weeks.

Firebase Hosting, the service’s web content hosting service, is also getting a small update and now allows you to host multiple websites within one project. And when you push an update, Firebase Hosting now only uploads the files that have changed between releases, which should speed up that process quite a bit.

Tweetbot loses several key features ahead of Twitter’s API change

Twitter’s API changes won’t come out until tomorrow, but its ramifications are already being felt. Tapbots released an update today to Tweetbot for iOS that loses many of the Twitter client’s most popular or essential features. It also removed its Apple Watch app. In Tweetbot’s App Store release notes, Tapbots explained “on August 16th Twitter will disable parts of their public interface that we use in Tweetbot. Because Twitter has chosen not to provide alternatives to these interfaces we have been forced to disable or degrade certain features. We are sorry about this, but unfortunately this is totally out of our control.”

The changes mean that Tweetbot’s timeline streaming is now disabled, so timelines will refresh every one to two minutes instead–a loss for people who want to see new tweets in real-time. Push notifications for Mentions and Direct Messages will also be delayed by a few minutes, while push notifications for Likes, Retweets, Follows and Quotes have been disabled altogether (Tapbots’ release notes say they are looking at how to reinstate some of those in the future). Tweetbot’s Activity and Stats tabs have been removed.

As part of an effort to tighten control over how its services are used by third-party developers, Twitter announced in April 2017 that it will shut down User Streams, Site Streams and other APIs to prepare for the arrival of its new Account Activity API and other products.

Other third-party Twitter clients that will likely be affected by the API changes include Twitterific, Tweetings and Talon, which along with Tweetbot protested in April that they hadn’t been given enough time or information to prepare for the release, which was originally schedule for June 19. In response, Twitter extended the deadline to August 16. Other apps that have already been impacted include Favstar, which went offline in June as a result of the API changes.

Jack Dorsey is finally realizing Twitter is a terrible place

Twitter's attempts to clean up its service using policies often feel like a Band-Aid on a bullet wound, and the company's leadership finally appears to be acknowledging that fact. CEO Jack Dorsey told the Washington Post in an interview that he was…

Tweetbot Removes Timeline Streaming, Activity and Stats Tab, and Push Notifications for Some Features Ahead of Twitter Changes

Ahead of upcoming Twitter changes set to be implemented tomorrow, Tapbots has released an updated version of its Tweetbot app for iOS devices, which removes several features.

Timeline streaming over Wi-Fi has been disabled, and within the iOS app, timelines will refresh every one to two minutes instead. We’ve been using the Tweetbot for iOS app in a beta capacity with these changes implemented, and while it’s not a huge change, the delay is noticeable.



Push notifications for Mentions and Direct Messages are also delayed by a few minutes, and push notifications for likes, retweets, follows, and quotes have been disabled. Tapbots says it is, however, investigating re-adding some of these push notification options in the future.

The Activity and Stats tabs have been removed from the app, and because the Apple Watch app was heavily dependent on Activity data, it too has been eliminated.

Tapbots says that it is sorry that the changes had to be made, but Twitter has decided to eliminate certain features provided to third-party apps without providing alternatives.

On August 16th Twitter will disable parts of their public interface that we use in Tweetbot. Because Twitter has chosen not to provide alternatives to these interfaces we have been forced to disable or degrade certain features. We’re sorry about this, but unfortunately this is totally out of our control.

Other third-party Twitter clients, such as Twitterrific, have also had to remove the same features that have been disabled in Tweetbot because of Twitter’s new limitations on third-party apps.

Twitter is requiring Twitter clients to pay for Premium or Enterprise accounts to access certain features, and timeline streaming has been deprecated entirely.

Tapbots has not yet updated Tweetbot for Mac, but changes should be coming to the Mac app soon as well.

Tweetbot for iOS can be downloaded from the App Store for $4.99. [Direct Link]

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Alex Jones gets a week suspension from Twitter

More than a week after other services pulled the plug on Alex Jones and InfoWars, CNN reports that Twitter has given the personality a one-week suspension. The move came after a Periscope video session where Jones told viewers "now is time to act on…

Twitter puts Infowars’ Alex Jones in the ‘read-only’ sin bin for 7 days

Twitter has finally taken action against Infowars creator Alex Jones, but it isn’t what you might think.

While Apple, Facebook, Google/YouTube, Spotify and many others have removed Jones and his conspiracy-peddling organization Infowars from their platforms, Twitter has remained unmoved with its claim that Jones hasn’t violated rules on its platform.

That was helped in no small way by the mysterious removal of some tweets last week, but now Jones has been found to have violated Twitter’s rules, as CNET first noted.

Twitter is punishing Jones for a tweet that violates its community standards but it isn’t locking him out forever. Instead, a spokesperson for the company confirmed that Jones’ account is in “read-only mode” for up to seven days.

That means he will still be able to use the service and look up content via his account, but he’ll be unable to engage with it. That means no tweets, likes, retweets, comments, etc. He’s also been ordered to delete the offending tweet — more on that below — in order to qualify for a fully functioning account again.

That restoration doesn’t happen immediately, though. Twitter policy states that the read-only sin bin can last for up to seven days “depending on the nature of the violation.” We’re imagining Jones got the full one-week penalty, but we’re waiting on Twitter to confirm that.

The offending tweet in question is a link to a story claiming President “Trump must take action against web censorship.” It looks like the tweet has already been deleted, but not before Twitter judged that it violates its policy on abuse:

Abuse: You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. We consider abusive behavior an attempt to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else’s voice.

When you consider the things Infowars and Jones have said or written — 9/11 conspiracies, harassment of Sandy Hook victim families and more — the content in question seems fairly innocuous. Indeed, you could look at President Trump’s tweets and find seemingly more punishable content without much difficulty.

But here we are.

The weirdest part of this Twitter caning is one of the reference points that the company gave to media. These days, it is common for the company to point reporters to specific tweets that it believes encapsulate its position on an issue, or provide additional color in certain situations.

In this case, Twitter pointed us — and presumably other reporters — to this tweet from Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson:

WTF, Twitter…