What is Twitter Thinking?

What is Twitter Thinking?It appears that you can hardly check Twitter these days without someone tweeting about how terrible Twitter’s decisions to bring in the reigns on third-party app developers taking advantage of its robust API. Twitter has always come across as a platform for other platforms. I rarely go to Twitter.com, and it’s even more rare that I interact directly with the service to check messages or reply to tweets.

I may be the average Twitter user in this regard. It’s been a while since I’ve seen someone tweet without having done so from some type of external application. Perhaps that was Twitter’s initial goal from the start, but it certainly can’t be good for revenue generation.

Who pays for the millions of tweets sent every day? The servers required to send and receive data from its ~500 million registered users must cost a fortune. Add to that the demands of bandwidth and maintenance, and you have a company that has all the signs of a terrible financial failure.

So Twitter implemented promotional tweets allowing people to pay to have their tweets appear at the top of user’s feeds. This was a brilliant idea, but how well are third-party applications supporting this? Frankly, I don’t remember seeing a promoted tweet in a third-party app’s timeline at all.

Twitter isn’t a charity, public utility, or even a non-profit venture. It’s a business, and profit means everything.

Perhaps this latest response is Twitter’s way of cutting away the freeloaders and concentrating on supporting users and third-party developers that are willing to support it by allowing advertising and other revenue-generating features. In any case, the question that should be on everyone’s mind is how these changes are having an impact on the average user. It’s easy to get upset and threaten boycotts and other actions over a company taking actions that upset the developer community, but how many users really feel the impact of these changes?

Third-Party Apps Users

I’m not going to go into detail about which apps are and aren’t going to survive Twitter’s decision to tighten the slack previously given to app publishers. Frankly, I’m glad the company is doing it and I hope third-party developers manage to bring their apps up to snuff and continue producing excellent programs for years to come. Unfortunately, Twitter has let app developers run wild with its service for far too long.

As much as I love open and free platforms, Twitter is neither of these things. It’s a business that requires profit to continue operating. Twitter isn’t a charity, public utility, or even a non-profit venture. It’s a business, and profit means everything.

For most users, these changes mean very little. Their apps may not be updated as quickly as they otherwise would, and fans of beta releases could be disappointed. In the end, Twitter is doing what’s best for Twitter, even if that means taking out some third-party apps in the process.

Some apps, like Flipboard, may lose out on the whole deal. Its new restrictions limiting the amount of users that can use an app to 100,000 (unless Twitter deems the app worthy of a limit boost) poses a risk to other apps that don’t quite meet Twitter’s standards.

Most users will remain unaware or unaffected by these changes. Apps will continue to be developed and Twitter will continue to operate as it has for the past five+ years. The only big difference is you may see a lot less new Twitter apps hit the market as developers concentrate their efforts on something with a friendlier API.


Developers are feeling the impact of these changes more than anyone. Developers and development companies depend on services like Twitter and Facebook for social integration. Not being able to develop a client with more than a certain number of users or having to deal with fluctuating API terms in general are an issue in this market.

It makes sense that Twitter wants more people to use its apps or visit its website for advertising reasons, though this poses a challenge to companies that have based their entire revenue model off Twitter and similar services.

Even Tumblr has not evaded the scope of these changes. Users used to be able to find friends from Twitter and add them on Tumblr. Without the old API, this feature is no longer available. This may change, but for now it’s a value-add that Tumblr can’t boast to its users. A shame, really, but yes, a reasonable one for a company that is being bled dry by third-party apps putting it to work.

Do you feel a direct impact by Twitter’s API changes? Leave a comment below and let us know how this has affected you. Do you use a third-party app that has been put out to pasture? Are you a developer yourself? Please let us know.

Photo: Twitter

19 comments On What is Twitter Thinking?

  • First of all, I’m just an user of Twitter. I use it as my main social media network.

    I do understand why Twitter is tightening their API. They are losing out on the 3rd party apps. I haven’t seen any promoted tweet in my most used app Echofon (iPhone & Mac).

    Think everybody got ‘scared’ by the suggested max user numbers/tokens. This could be easily solved. If a 3rd party app makes sure they feed the promoted tweets into the app, there should be no problem for Twitter to let the app do their business.

    At least twitter should step up and fix their own apps, which IMHO just plain suck! (Twitter for iPhone/Tweetdeck).

    For the average user, nothing much will change, expect the possibility to lose their favorite app.

  • I’m new to Twitter, so I’m still in the learning stages, but as far as advertising goes, I don’t see any on PC’s browser. Is it because I’m fairly new, or do they just not advertise there?

  • And just to think they just joined the Linux foundation…. :/

  • I fell in love with Tweetdeck. I don’t feel any impact by the changes at all

  • Matthew Cheung

    I also am not a very constant visitor of my Twitter page so I am not so worried with the changes that are happening. I mainly use Google+ as my main social network which I connect with most of my friends and read up on the latest news.

  • I have had twitter for a while now and i also dont tweet much since i only link it to my instagram, but mostly because i dont have many followers lol. Its to much work looking for followers if only they would link it to facebook accounts that have twitter like instagram

  • On the Desktop, I use Tweetdeck in Chrome and on my iPhone, I use Twitter for iOS. Both great Twitter apps. But I’ve always wondered how they make money.

  • Just like the other story I dont have a twitter account. I would be interested in knowing just how much I have been missing out on?

  • Good article. From what I am understanding, this should not really affect me at all. When I use twitter, I am either on Twitter.com or I am using the Twitter app on either my iPhone or Nexus 7. I know a lot of people don’t like the original Twitter app for iOS, but I find nothing wrong with it. I read people tweets, see their pictures, and reply to a lot of them. It has always done me well. I’m a very average user when it comes to social media.

  • I recently started using twitter for actual social networking. As such I don’t know much about what’s “bad” about twitter yet as I’ve also only used the official app or used the site itself. So far it’s no harm to me or my habits.

  • Well thanks for sharing this news, i was not aware about this as i m not a developer, however i do agree revenue is the core of company and as u say regular users are not affected by it, i see no harm as long as users are happy, but limits & restrictions are not healthy instead they could have easily chose to let themselves & their developers earn money and so that everybody could be happy, advertising sure why not, and that way even advertising would have evolved into new horizons, the way to future is clearly through innovation. I hope twitter is here for the long run and i wish them and the developers all the best.

  • Earning a profit is not guaranteed and although it seems that ‘a profit motive’ is what drives the world these days; there is no shame (or should be no shame) in making or building a service whose goal is generated enough money to pay its expenses with a little left over for R&D. Non-profit shouldn’t be a bad word and doesn’t really mean your goal is not to make a profit – it just means that any profit is plowed back into the business. I know that investors are looking for profit but of a non-profit Twitter type service existed they could have gone with startup loans instead of investment capital; it would mean slower growth in the beginning but not public offering goal and no requirement to show quarter over quarter increases in revenue and profit. Profit doesn’t have to be the main goal of life; I’m just saying…

  • Twitter had the chance to be the next information system of the internet, a public utility and now they have blew it pissing off Developers and users

  • Twitter’s API changes will have a real impact on News Developer.

  • Promoted tweets show up in the Twitter.app for iOS and Mac OS X. It really doesn’t matter what twitter does to drive me to the web interface, because it’s not going to happen. After they bought TweetDeck and completely ruined it, I’ll never support Twitter’s efforts for improving their own interface. They completely ruined a functional app that so many people had embraced. If they can’t make money from promoted tweets, or having other developers incorporate some kind of ad structure into their app, then maybe twitter will fail.

    Apparently, that wouldn’t bother me too much, regardless of all the good that has come from Twitter. Sorry, guys, but you’re not the only social networking site out there where people can reach across oceans to talk to each other. Get over yourselves. Either figure out a way to make money or go sleep with the fishes. Like there aren’t a million other outlets out there that I can use to communicate with other people.

    Most of my hate stems from them taking a good thing like TweetDeck and almost completely ruining it just so people would use either their own apps, or their web interface. Why didn’t you just take TweetDeck and turn it into something even better and figure out how to monetize with it, like a real entrepreneur? Bad decision. I will NEVER use your web interface, as long as I can help it. I don’t use Gmail’s either. Why would I? I have the Mail.app, which has way more functionality.

    It’s either about the user experience, or it’s about the developer/founder/CEO, etc. making money. Once it started being about Twitter.com and not about the user, Twitter failed. And, as long as that’s the business model they want to carry, I will not be a party to supporting that. I uninstalled Twitter on both the iPod Touch and the Mac. Both Twitter and Google can take their web interfaces, roll them up reallllllly tight, and…


    Analytical information has also taken a hit from Twitter, now that they’ve removed from their web interface the ability for a user to view what app other tweeters are using. Oddly enough, it still works just fine in TweetBot.

    Honestly, Twitter, I don’t know where you get off so blatantly spitting in the faces of 3rd party developers, because if it wasn’t for 3rd party developers, you wouldn’t have the audience that you DO have. So, keep biting the hand that feeds you and let me know how that works out for you. 🙂

    Sorry about your luck. Tell your story walkin. Cry me a river. Hit the bricks. Come back when you can’t stay so long.

  • I signed on to Twitter about a year ago just to follow a musician friend of mine, and in all that time I have only logged in maybe 30 times in the last year. I feel we are so saturated with one social web place or another that it is becoming a comsuming past time that takes away from true social interactivity..Is that a word?

  • Thing is, Twitter is not very good at serving their users as I get fail-whaled all the time. They actually need more servers!

  • Being new to the techie crowd, I’m learning that this stuff is only important to techie people. As a regular user of twitter, I have not been affected and I probably won’t ever be. But I am learning how it can affect people who are in development. This will be interesting as I learn more.

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