Twitter revised its developer rules last week, effectively prohibiting any alternative Twitter client software. After a number of well-known apps, including Twitterrific, Tweetbot, Echofone, and Fenix, were abruptly suspended by the business’s developer platform team without warning or justification, the firm made a change.
Developers distrusted the platform even more as a result of the social media company’s lack of transparency around its choices to reject third-party clients, simply stating that it was upholding “long-standing” standards (which it later hurried to document). While Twitter and app developers have long had a tumultuous relationship, third-party clients have made significant contributions to several essential features that are now at the heart of the Twitter experience.
Here are a few instances of how third-party apps’ contributions helped the social network become what it is today:
The bird logo: According to a blog post by one of the app’s co-creators, Ged Maheux, Twitterrific, one of the first Twitter clients, used a bird logo when it first launched, and other clients soon followed. Only in 2010 did the bird start appearing in the Twitter official logo.
Tweet (plural): That’s accurate. Early on, the corporation didn’t actually use the word “tweet” in its language. Twitter co-founder Biz Stone is cited in another blog post by Maheux as using terms like “Twitter-ers” and “Twittering” in an email to users. Twitterrific first used the name “Twit” in the first few days of January 2007. According to the article, one of Twitter’s developers proposed changing the name from “Twit” to “Tweet.”
Pull-to-refresh: In the modern era, it is difficult to picture Twitter without this feature. But at the time, Twitter didn’t have an app. Instead, an app created by developer Loren Brichter named Tweetie was the first to use this capability.
- iPhone app: Tweetie was acquired by Twitter in 2010 and then made available as a native official client. The first startup to make a native Twitter app for the iPhone and Mac was Twitterrific.
- Swipe to action: When Twitter acquired Tweetie, this feature, which had been their trademark, was also removed. Users could reply, retweet, like, and share tweets by swiping on them. In 2012, the function was added once more to the official Twitter app.
- Inline images and videos: When Twitter first launched, users could tweet links to images and videos rather than seeing them in real time on their timelines. One of the first Twitter clients to enable in-line image and video previews was Brizzly.
- Initially, there was no picture hosting option available on Twitter. The business teamed up with Photobucket in 2011 to make it possible for users to upload photos. Other services, such as Twitpic and Yfrog, filled that void for Twitter in the interim. Twitpic was finally purchased by Twitter in 2015, just hours before the photo-sharing platform was shut down.
- Edit Tweet: Although Twitter first made this functionality available to Twitter Blue subscribers last year, third-party clients have experimented with various ways to offer it. By removing and recreating the tweet from the back end, Twitterrific provided an edit tweet capability in 2014. Brizzly released an edit tweet function in 2020 by creating and saving a tweet locally for a predetermined amount of time prior to posting it.
- Reading the thread: In recent years, story sharing on Twitter has shifted to Twitter threads. However, using the native app to read discussions has been a hassle. The business bought Threader and included it in the Twitter Blue subscription to address this issue.
- Curation: As part of last year’s layoffs, Twitter disbanded its curation team. If Twitter’s API permits it, third-party applications can close that gap. Back then, Listorious created interesting lists to follow, while Favster offered top tweet tracking.
Elon Musk, the owner of Twitter, says he now wants to make Twitter a “everything app” (also known as a “super app”) as the era of third-party apps comes to an end, with some businesses penning angry blogs or other eulogies. But because of Musk’s behaviour of the developer community, the company no longer has access to the Twitter app ecosystem, which could impede further advancements.