You can’t take anything for granted with the new Musk-backed Twitter. After years of uneasy truce between app developers and the social network, Twitter has dropped the hammer. It began shutting off API access to popular Twitter clients like Twitterific and Fenix several days ago and has now made the change official: Third-party apps are no longer allowed.
App developers were caught off guard when Twitter suddenly cut them off. Twitter no longer has a press office after Elon Musk fired more than half of the company’s staff, but the official developer account tweeted that it was just “enforcing its long-standing API rules,” and that might cause some apps to stop working. Although, no one could figure out which API rules were being violated.
According to Engadget, Twitter quietly updated its developer agreement on Jan 19 to clarify those supposedly long-standing rules. The expanded “Restrictions on Use of Licensed Materials” section now makes it clear that developers may not use API access to create alternative Twitter applications. As a result, most of the affected developers have announced they will discontinue the apps and remove them from app stores.
This is almost certainly about money. Twitter doesn’t have very much of it right now, and third-party apps don’t have display ads like the official client does. One of Musk’s planned features for his Twitter Blue subscription is to show only half as many ads. That’s not much of a selling point when people can use another Twitter app to get zero ads.
Twitter is enforcing its long-standing API rules. That may result in some apps not working.
— Twitter Dev (@TwitterDev) January 17, 2023
The unexpected change is a blow to developers and users alike, but it could have been much worse. The old Twitter clamped down on third-party apps years ago by implementing strict limits on API usage. Developers were free to develop new clients, but they could only connect a maximum of 100,000 users. This did push more people to use the official client, and now that transition is total.
Even without competing for users with those apps, Twitter has a tough road ahead. The company had lost money for the past few years when Musk acquired it for $44 billion, and the deal saddled Twitter with a lot of new debt. It will have to pay about $1.5 billion in interest at the end of January, and many of the remaining employees are looking for an exit.