Developers in distress as Twitter cuts support for legacy APIs

17 Aug 2018

Image: cgdeaw/Shutterstock

Twitter’s decision to stop supporting legacy APIs on its platform has developers up in arms.

Twitter said it is removing access to API features, a move likely to hurt third-party clients. In a new blogpost, senior director for data enterprise solutions at Twitter, Rob Johnson, said: “We’re removing support for some outdated developer tools.

“We feel the best Twitter experience we can provide today is through our owned and operated Twitter for iOS and Android apps, as well as desktop and mobile,” Johnson explained.

Change coming to Twitter APIs

This decision spells trouble for third-party apps such as Tweetbot and Twitterrific, which rely on the old API structure.

Johnson explained further: “In order to prioritise making these experiences great, we’ve chosen to stop investing in other products – including two legacy developer tools used by about 1pc of third-party developers.

“This means that some Twitter-like apps will not be able to function the exact same way as before.

“For example, instead of tweets automatically streaming in like they once did in some third-party apps, you might need to pull to refresh like you do in Twitter-owned apps and sites.

“Several of the most popular apps have already made updates so that you can continue using them with minimal disruption.”

User Streams and Site Streams API tools on Twitter are apparently so old that they are no longer supported by the company’s new programs. These tools supported the core functions of apps such as Tweetbot and Tweetings, among others.

Johnson cited “technical and business constraints” as the primary reason for the changes. Twitter said that despite working well with the third-party applications for years, it needs to focus on itself.

A company-wide email acknowledged that Twitter has not always been straightforward in sharing the reasons behind decisions with third-party clients. The company told third-party developers not to build apps that mimic the core Twitter experience in 2011. In 2012, Twitter announced changes to make these limitations clearer.

Developer disappointment

Twitter said it is withdrawing support for the APIs out of necessity, as opposed to singling out third-party developers.

However, many developers are angry at what they see as the concluding example of Twitter’s preference for its own owned and operated APIs.

It is also worth noting that the company has made the choice not to create new, Twitter-supported APIs with the same functionality.

Critics said Twitter should have invested in supporting legacy APIs, instead of shutting them down entirely.

They also said that Twitter’s proprietary apps are not up to scratch, using the example of the disastrous Twitter for Mac app, which the firm shut down in February.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects