After cutting off prominent app makers like Tweetbot and Twitterific, Twitter today quietly updated its developer terms to ban third-party clients altogether.
Spotted by Engadget, the “restrictions” section of Twitter’s 5,000-some-word developer agreement was updated with a clause prohibiting “use or access the Licensed Materials to create or attempt to create a substitute or similar service or product to the Twitter Applications.” Earlier this week, Twitter said that it was “enforcing long-standing API rules” in disallowing clients access to its platform but didn’t cite which specific rules developers were violating. Now we know — retroactively.
As Engadget notes, Twitter clients are a part of Twitter history — Twitterific was created before Twitter had a native iOS app of its own. And they’ve gained a larger following in recent years, thanks in part to their lack of ads.
Twitter’s attitude toward third-party clients has long been permissive and even supportive, with the company going so far as to remove a section from its developer terms that discouraged devs from replicating its core service. But that seems to have changed under CEO Elon Musk’s leadership.
The decision seems unlikely to foster goodwill toward Twitter at a time when the platform faces challenges on a number of fronts. In a blog post, Twitterrific’s Sean Heber called Twitter “increasingly capricious” and a company he “no longer recognize[d] as trustworthy nor want to work with any longer.” Matteo Villa, the developer of Fenix, in an interview with Engadget called the lack of communication “insulting.” (Twitter has no communications department at present.)
Twitter is under immense pressure to turn a profit — or at least break even — as advertisers flee the platform, spurred by unpredictable, fast-changing content policies. The company, which has $12.5 billion in debt, is on the hook for $300 million in its first interest payment and has lost an estimated $4 billion in value since Musk acquired it at the end of October 2022. Fidelity recently slashed the value of its stake in Twitter by 56%.
Cutbacks at Twitter abound. Some employees are bringing their own toilet paper to work after the company reduced janitorial services, the New York Times reported, and Twitter has stopped paying rent for several of its offices. Musk has elsewhere attempted to save around $500 million in costs unrelated to labor, shutting down a data center and launching a fire sale after putting office items up for auction in a bid to recoup costs.
Twitter’s also heavily pushing its Twitter Blue plan (now with an annual option), aiming to make it a profit driver. It plans to lift its ban on political ads, chasing after campaign dollars in the 2024 U.S. elections. And the company is reportedly considering selling usernames through online auctions.