Twitter’s API Crackdown May Be Bad For Users, Even If They Never Notice

This week Twitter launched its new API. There are still lots of questions about what this means for developers, and what role developers have played in Twitter’s rise. But the general consensus seems to be that it doesn’t matter much for most users.

Apparently most users just use Twitter’s official clients and supposedly will never notice if Twitter bans most third party clients. Even if that’s true, I think it’s a real shame for the future of social media.

Twitter has turned TweetDeck into a Twitter/Facebook client only, dropping support for LinkedIn and Foursquare and dashing hopes of any other integrations being added in the future. I’m afraid it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a Twitter-only product. The old version still works, but I’m guessing that after the March 5 deadline it will break.

Meanwhile, it sounds like Seesmic will be rolled into HootSuite, meaning Hootsuite may end up with monopoly on cross-network social media clients. It’s bad enough that there may end up being a monopoly, but I’m worried that for individual users the choice may evaporate entirely.

“If someone is a casual user of Seesmic, go this way [e.g. to Twitter]. If you are an SME we are happy to help you you,” HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes told Ingrid earlier this week.

Does this mean the free and “pro” versions of Hootsuite will go away and that Hootsuite will be available only to enterprise customers? I’m wondering if Twitter’s new API will affect HootSuite’s ability to serve free and pro users. I asked HootSuite for clarification, but as of this writing haven’t heard back. But my fellow TechCrunch writer Ingrid Lunden tells me that it sounds like the company is planning to keep the free and pro plans around for a long time.

And with Twitter working closely with HootSuite on cross-selling advertising, it seems like there is some potential monetization of the free product that’s agreeable to Twitter.

Update: Here’s the statement I got from HootSuite: “We are absolutely committed to continuing our current freemium model offering free along with our paid Pro and Enterprise plans.”

But how will other social networks will react? The Google+ API has always been limited. You can at least post to a Google+ page from HootSuite now, but it’s still a far cry from being a full fledged Google+ client.

I know it costs money to keep these services available, and I know Twitter and Google and Facebook are supposed to be in the business of making money and not the techno-hippie federated love-fest business, but come on — is forcing everyone to juggle multiple official (and perhaps crappy) apps really going to make shareholders more money? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

On the other hand, maybe walled gardens will end up being good. Less spammy cross-posting, people spread out over fewer networks. Maybe we’ll look back on the freewheeling open API days like we look at the browser crashing Myspace profile days.