The arrival of the official Twitter app in 2010 was a warning shot for many of the third-party developers on the microblogging social network that had made so much hay while the sun shined. If that wasn't indication enough that the good times might be coming to an end, Twitter has made a series of announcements of late to send further shivers down those same spines.
Blog posts on the Twitter site have made reference to that fact that "developers should not build client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience" and there have been more recent comments from Twitter CEO Dick Costolo that he wants to migrate away from developers building more external Twitter apps, to a world in which developers and companies are building products inside the Twitter platform.
So, do the third-party app developers feel that the walls are closing in or are they quite comfortable despite what's said in public? Pocket-lint spoke to a handful of the more important ones to find out:
We continue to be disappointed and confused by these extremely vague statements of future restrictions. Instead of finding ways to work with all of their partners who helped bring new users to Twitter and keep existing users on Twitter, we have Twitter waving their finger at us saying to watch our backs. In the short term we don't expect there to be any changes with Rowi for Windows Phone or Windows 8. Long term is anybody's vague guess.
Erik Porter, founder of Windows Phone Twitter app Rowi
We're going to resist making judgments until Twitter clarifies their position. It sounds ominous to be sure, but until we know more I don't think it's wise for developers to sound alarm bells. It may be something as simple as serving up ads in the timeline, but then again it may not. I'm afraid we'll have to wait and see.
Gedeon Maheux, Principal / Designer - the Iconfactory, makers of Mac & iOS app Twitteriffic
Twitter has been clear in the past that they support developers and the innovation they bring. I hope they continue to leverage and benefit from the innovation and audience we bring.
Evan Conway, President of OneLouder, the company behind the number 1 mobile Twitter app TweetCaster
It does appear that Twitter is discouraging the development of new 3rd-party Twitter clients, which is unfortunate, but somewhat understandable given the proliferation of lower quality apps that mimic their official apps. We don't have any real insight as to what is going to happen to existing 3rd-party Twitter clients that have already garnered millions of fans, many of which provide features or focus on aspects of the Twitter experience not found in the official app.
For example, TweetList, as its name implies, focuses more attention on the reading and creation of Twitter lists and is a leader in providing an accessible interface for the blind, two areas that have received less emphasis from Twitter. We are interested in exploring new ways to continue to develop for Twitter, but it remains to be seen how things will evolve -- there's still a bunch of uncertainty.
Alexandra Danieli, Co-Founder of iOS client TweetList
Thank you for reaching out. However we don't comment on this topic.
Bastien Vidal, Exec. VP at Seesmic
At the same time, Facebook seems to be no kinder to developers, with a recent open letter from one called Dalton Caldwell to Mark Zuckerberg after a team of FB "negotiators" (read "heavies") essentially threatened to shut him down if he didn't sell to them.
Curiously, it's Google that seems to be coming out of this one looking the best. While constant decisions to postpone the API to Google+ may appear to be something of a frustration for third-party software writers, the SVP of Software Engineering at the Big G, Vic Gundotra, has taken little time and minced few words in explaining why.
"When we open an API, we want developers to feel confident that the innovations they build are going to be long lasting," he said. "Releasing an API, and then later changing the rules of the game isn't fun for anyone, especially developers who’ve spent their life’s energies building on the platform."
Touché. Just a shame for developers that there's not as much interest in Google+ for the moment but, perhaps with the ground shrinking beneath those relying on Facebook and Twitter, that's something that might just change.