By John Gruber
Atoms: We are not selling shoes this time…
Good piece by Sarah Perez at TechCrunch regarding a Twitter internal email on why they’ve broken significant functionality for third-party clients:
And Twitter wonders why users don’t want to use its own clients?
Perhaps, users want a consistent experience — one that doesn’t involve a million inconsequential product changes like turning stars to hearts or changing the character counter to a circle. Maybe they appreciate the fact that the third parties seem to understand what Twitter is better than Twitter itself does: Twitter has always been about a real-time stream of information. It’s not meant to be another Facebook-style algorithmic News Feed. The third-party clients respect that. Twitter does not.
We’ve heard feedback (#breakingmytwitter) from our customers about the pain this causes. We’re committed to understanding why people hire 3rd party clients over our own apps, and we’re going to do better with communicating changes.
My strong preference for Tweetbot, on both iOS and Mac, is simple: I prefer its user interface.
Tweetbot presents tweets and replies/mentions in a way that fits my mental model of what Twitter is. Tweetbot makes sense to me — in large part simply because it presents tweets in chronological order. Twitter’s iOS app does none of these things for me. I truly find it confusing. And Twitter no longer even fucking has a first-party native app for the Mac. I don’t want to use a website for Twitter. I want an app.
I think Twitter should reverse course on this whole thing. Replace the now-deprecated third-party client APIs with new ones, let third-party clients flourish, and figure out a way to make money from them. Require third-party clients to show ads. Or require users who prefer third-party clients to pay some sort of fee. I already happily pay for Tweetbot; I’d also happily pay Twitter for the privilege of using it. I am convinced there are ways Twitter could make money from people using third-party clients. I am equally convinced that there’s no way Twitter can make one interface that pleases all of its users.
Twitter cutting off third-party clients is as foolish and wrongheaded as it would be if Apple cut off third-party iOS apps for maps, email, calendar, notes, podcasts, music, etc. iOS is a platform and Apple has default apps for all those things, and most iOS users stick with those defaults. Twitter should look at itself as a platform in the same way. As it stands, they’re chasing influential users away.
Update: Something I only noticed after having made the above analogy: when Rob Johnson shared his email this morning about Twitter and third-party clients, he did so by tweeting two screenshots of the message. Those screenshots show he uses a third-party email client on his iPhone. So my simple argument to Johnson is this: I prefer a third-party Twitter client for the same reason you prefer a third-party iOS email client. One size doesn’t fit all.