Twitter API Changes Are Already Posing Challenges To Tweetbot Developers

Tapbots has announced on their blog that the alpha version of Tweetbot for Mac will no longer be available. As Twitter limits an app’s user base to only 100,000 users, has fallen victim to the new API rules, albeit indirectly. The third-party app currently offers a better user experience than Twitter’s own official app. It is therefore a controversial outcome.

Tapbots contacted Twitter to see if they could implement a workaround to prevent wasting user tokens during the free alpha test, but Twitter was intransigent.

With the version 1.1 of the Twitter API, a new controversial rule was implemented to supervise developers of third-party Twitter clients. There is now a user cap of 100,000. After that, you can just hope that Twitter will raise that cap for your app — but there is no guarantee.

Tweetbot for Mac will be a paid app available in the Apple App Store. But the alpha version was distributed as a free download on Tapbots’ website. Those builds will expire after a certain period of time. As with many applications, the alpha stage is a good way to try out the software, even if you don’t plan to use it.

Yet, user tokens don’t expire and can only be revoked by the user by going to Twitter settings — a cumbersome process that does not bring any apparent benefit for the user. That is why the developers have decided to pull the alpha from their website in order to preserve their number of tokens for the paid customers.

Development is still active. “Just to be perfectly clear, Tweetbot for Mac will still be available for sale in the near future, we are just stopping the public part of the alpha/beta testing,” said Paul Haddad, the programmer of the team. “We wish we could continue on but we didn’t make the rules, we just have to live within them,” he continued.

The announcement is one of the first consequences of the API changes instated by Twitter. Developers now have to adapt their development workflow. The philosophy “release early, release often”, popularized by open source software advocate Eric S. Raymond, will be harder to follow for Twitter app developers.

Even more worrisome, Twitter did not concede at all, meaning that the company is willing to implement word for word its new API rules. Reading between the lines, even though the official Twitter Mac app has not been updated for a long time, Twitter does not seem to care about Tweetbot’s future. It confirms that Twitter wants its users to go through its website in order to display ads more easily, push changes quickly to Twitter Cards — supposedly a big part of Twitter’s monetization effort — and, in general, control the experience across different platforms.