It’s been a few days since pretty much every major third-party Twitter client broke, and developers say they still haven’t heard from the company about what’s going on. The problems seemed to start on Thursday evening, with some users reporting that they were getting authentication-related errors.
The company’s silence was pretty complete. “Still no official/unofficial information from Twitter,” Tweetbot co-creator Paul Haddad said in a Mastodon post. “We’re just as in the dark as you are,” reads a Friday blog post from Iconfactory, the company behind Twitterific.
There were also no tweets about the plight of third-party apps as of Sunday afternoon the official twitter accountthe Twitter support accountor Elon Musk. (So much for “Transparency creates trust.”) The company does not have a communications department that we could directly ask about the issue.
Apps like Twitterific have since started showing users a notification to fix the outage. “Twitterific users cannot access the service at this time,” the statement reads. “This can only be a temporary error; it could be a more serious problem.” The Tweetbot app displays a similar message.
There was speculation from Twitter user, developers and some news outlets that this is a move by Twitter to shut down third-party clients entirely. However, a Saturday report from The Information appears to confirm that the outage was intentional. In internal messages viewed by the outlet, a senior software engineer says “third-party app locks are by design” in a Slack channel devoted to Twitter outages and other disruptions.
According to The Information, another employee is asking when they can get a list of “approved talking points” in response to complaints about third-party apps not working on Friday. A product marketing manager reportedly replies that Twitter “has started working on communications,” but that they’re not sure when that information will be ready to share with developers.
Haddad says his company will assume the outage is intentional, and the Iconfactory post points to the possibility of “a new (seemingly unspoken and unannounced) policy that will only apply to apps with a large number of users.”
Some apps like Albatross and Fenix have continued to work for me and a few othersalthough after the latter Developers, the Android version got the ax while the iOS version stayed on top. The first-party Twitter app is also still functional.
Third-party apps rely on Twitter’s API to get data from the service, a point that has been controversial in the past when the company went through a period of neglecting tools for outside developers.
That appeared to reverse before Elon Musk bought the company, although it’s not clear where he stands on alternative Twitter apps; he doesn’t seem to have said much positive or negative about her. However, its Twitter 2.0 has incentives to make its first-party app the only game in town; Desperate to make money, the company is focused on its Blue subscription service, which offers features in its own client. Also, third-party apps often don’t show ads, which means some users may be left completely unmonetized.
It’s hard to tell if the third-party client failure is due to the API. Trying to make specific calls from my individual Twitter developer account seemed to work Twitter’s own API explorer tool is currently broken.
Update Jan 13 9:05pm ET: Updated to reflect that it has now been about a day since the issues started and to note the continued silence from Twitter.
Update Jan 14 8:45am ET: Updated to show that it has been a few days since the problems began and to include a report from The Information stating that the outage is “by design”.
Update Jan 14 11:58am ET: Updated to add that some third party apps will show outage notifications to users.