Why Twitter’s Afraid of Clients

While I’m still not positive App.net will be successful long-term, it’s been fun to relive the early days of Twitter with this new service.

The service is evolving right before user’s eyes — just the other day, they added the ability to star a post — and the clients that are being built around the service are evolving, too.

I’m beta testing several apps, and have bought a couple from the App Store. They are all different. They have different control schemes, different UIs and different ways of posting, replying and re-posting. Some are blue, some are white and some are dark. Some have push notifications and some don’t. Some can publish photos and some can’t.

It’s like 2008 all over again.

In 2008, Apple opened up the iPhone to third-party apps with the release of iPhone OS 2 that summer. In those early days, there were many clients — Twitterrific being the best in those early days —  that were awesome.

Today, it’s even better. I use Tweetbot on all three of my devices — iPad, iPhone and Mac. Once the Mac version comes out in the App Store, my custom mute filters and more will sync, wall-to-wall, giving me a type of platform on top of Twitter that I can fully control.

I keep the official client stashed in a folder on my iPhone just to keep tabs on what Twitter’s doing with it. I opened it the other evening to be bombarded with tweets including hashtags I had blocked in Tweetbot. It was jarring.

This, of course, is just what Twitter doesn’t want. Twitter wants everyone to experience the service they way they intend it, not a developer — no matter how great the third-party app or service might be. The reality is that Twitter just doesn’t like third-party clients — they are afraid of them. They are afraid that users will fall in love with a client and its services, and forget that Twitter is what’s underneath. That, coupled with the fact that currently third-party apps don’t pass along promoted tweets and other ads, is why Twitter is killing them off. Twitter’s doing it slowly, but have no doubt — it’s happening.

It’s a real shame. While the average user doesn’t care about this stuff, there are many users who do, and ADN might just benefit from their unhappiness with the way things are going.