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Twitter modifies the developer agreement retrospectively to prohibit third-party clients

Elon Musk’s Twitter has amended its developer agreement to ostensibly explain its restriction on third-party clients, suggesting that “long-standing” may mean “tomorrow” there. Two days after a tweet with no specifics about “enforcing long-standing API standards,” the policy change went into effect.

Internet sage Andy Baio pointed out that between the effective dates of October 10, 2022 and January 19, 2023, there is just one modification to Twitter’s developer agreement: a new line added to the section “Restrictions on Use of Licensed Materials.” Developers are now unable to do as much of the following due to the new addition:

c) use or access the Licensed Materials to create or attempt to create a substitute or similar service or product to the Twitter Applications;

Twitter effectively ended an era in which third-party clients not only coexisted with the official software (which was built on Tweetie, a predecessor third-party programme) but also often offered and pushed new features. Only Twitter’s official applications and website are currently considered to be secure means of using the service.

An external client, Twitterific, “initially utilised ‘tweet’ to characterise an update, first used a bird symbol, and [was] the first native client for iPhone and Mac,” as highlighted by Baio. Developer Sean Heber said that “an increasingly erratic Twitter—a Twitter that we no longer recognise as trustworthy nor wish to deal with any longer” was to blame for the app’s “sudden and undignified end” in a post announcing the app’s shutdown. To avoid what “would be terrible to a tiny business like ours,” Heber pleaded with Twitterific’s subscribers not to seek for refunds.

The co-creator of Tweetbot, Paul Haddad, made a funny observation on Mastodon about Twitter’s explanation for Tweetbot’s suspension. He said, “I suppose I didn’t grasp long standing truly meant a few hours ago, one again I’m terribly sorry.”

An internal chat seen by The Information (subscription required) last week showed a senior software engineer telling employees that the “third-party app suspensions are intentional,” despite Twitter only officially tweeting the much-maligned “long-standing” statement and modifying its developer agreement. Twitter “started to work on communications” regarding the move, a product marketing manager stated at the time, but not much has been revealed.

As a result of Elon Musk’s leveraged purchase of Twitter, the company is facing a significant drop in ad revenue and heavy upcoming debt payments; in response, Twitter has officially banned third-party clients, which do not receive and display ads through the API but can pay fees for enhanced access. Musk’s timetable for Twitter ownership notes that in early November, the whole API staff that dealt with third-party applications was laid off.