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The third-party client lockout on Twitter is deliberate

It has been about a week since Twitter’s API broke for third-party clients like Twitterific and Tweetbot, and Twitter still hasn’t explained why. However, a recent allegation and testing by a single app developer indicate that the outages and lack of communication are deliberate.

The Information (subscription needed) reviewed internal Twitter Slack chat conversations in which a senior software engineer stated that “third-party app suspensions are purposeful” in a “command centre” channel. According to The Information’s article, another employee asked a product marketing manager for talking points to utilise when discussing the outages with product partners, and the manager said Twitter has “started to work on comms,” but there was no delivery date.

Early Sunday morning, several Tweetbot users appeared to temporarily regain access to their accounts, but without the ability to post. This occurred when Tweetbot co-creator Paul Haddad changed the app’s API keys, but he has now lost access to all of them. Haddad posted on Mastodon Sunday night, which was picked up by The Verge, that this finding “proves that this was purposeful and we and others were directly targeted.”

“I wouldn’t have swapped out the keys in the first place if there was even a shred of communication,” Haddad wrote.  “Figured if nothing else, this would push the issue. Oh well, on to smaller but greener pastures.”

Neither Twitter nor its owner, Elon Musk, has commented on the issue of incompatible third-party clients. As of early Monday, Twitter’s status page said that all services were live and that there had been no issues since January 2. Many third-party clients, including various versions of Twitterific for Mac, and “enterprise” clients like those designed for businesses that monitor Twitter interaction and track topics appear to be operational.

For a long time, Twitter ignored third-party clients, which let individuals and small groups of people modify their experience while seeing, tracking, and responding to tweets. Twitter discouraged their development before Musk bought the company, limited its API, and disabled push alerts and client auto-refresh.

As the company’s third-party API was shut down, some industry watchers and tech pundits wondered if it was simply an infrastructure failure that the company couldn’t quickly fix, given Elon Musk’s ownership, which started with massive layoffs and has consistently seen the company rapidly changing policy and making its intent hard to decipher.

Ad income, though, is the more plausible answer. Musk stated in mid-December that Twitter was projected to have a “negative cash flow of $3 billion,” which explains his widespread layoffs. Musk’s buyout debt payment costs of $1.5 billion, along with a precipitous drop in advertising revenue after his purchase, appear to be the primary causes of the liquidity problem. Multiple landlords have filed lawsuits against Twitter for unpaid rent.

Twitter has recently updated its iOS app such that the “For You” feed generated by an algorithm is displayed by default, with the “Following” feed displaying tweets in reverse chronological order. In the past, third-party clients were the only way to access Twitter without seeing Twitter’s “promoted” tweet advertising and with significantly greater flexibility in how users may filter their feeds. After seeing significant drops in ad sales, the corporation has recently provided highly incentive advertising packages.

Twitter’s public relations and communications divisions supposedly no longer exist, so we were unable to reach anybody there for comment. Musk’s newest tweet, posted shortly after midnight ET on January 16, is a subtle jab at the media for being in the background and controlled by the state.