Twitter Finds A New Way To Piss Off Users
April 6, 2018 12:46 PM   Subscribe

Developers of four Twitter clients are protesting upcoming changes to Twitter's API that could destroy third-party clients. These apps include Talon and Tweetings for Android, and Tweetbot and Twitteriffic for iOS and Mac, but it will affect anything that uses Twitter's Streaming API.

The hashtag #BreakingMyTwitter is being used to communicate with Twitter developers. Beyond breaking apps on platforms Twitter currently has a native app on, it will also remove support for third-party apps Twitter does not have a native app for, including MacOS, Windows Phone, and more.

Additional coverage on The Verge and Engadget. While not a direct result of the upcoming API change, a previous API change for Third-Party clients has resulted in the death of the Flamingo client for Android.
posted by SansPoint (51 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I've been a long time fan of Talon. And forever ago when I was on iOS, I used Tweetbot. I've enjoyed both of these apps and how beautiful and streamlined they make the Twitter experience. Twitter's native app has never been something I enjoyed using. I've got most of my foot out the door with Twitter, this might just kick me the rest of the way.

Toot you later, see you around the Fediverse.
posted by Fizz at 12:49 PM on April 6, 2018 [10 favorites]

Fizz: I'm in the same boat. Tweetbot literally is Twitter for me. If I can't use Tweetbot, I can't use Twitter, nor will I. I'm happy on Mastodon, but I'm also trying to see if I can't make a go with as a more... professional social media presence.
posted by SansPoint at 12:52 PM on April 6, 2018 [18 favorites]

I guess I don't really understand why Twitter is doing this, and the Apps of a Feather explanation doesn't really make sense to me.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:59 PM on April 6, 2018

Pope Guilty: My guess? To drive people to use their official app or the web site, and be forced to see promoted posts and use the algorithmic timeline.
posted by SansPoint at 1:03 PM on April 6, 2018 [41 favorites]

I'm still getting my feet wet with it but man, Mastodon is looking better and better.
posted by tommasz at 1:07 PM on April 6, 2018 [6 favorites]

My guess? To drive people to use their official app or the web site, and be forced to see promoted posts and use the algorithmic timeline.

Which is the exact reason I have always used third party apps, to avoid the advertisements and also the interfaces are so much prettier. I am not at all surprised by this news.
posted by Fizz at 1:09 PM on April 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

Fizz: I'd settle for a compromise where Tweetbot, et. al., have to display Promoted Tweets, as long as I get all the other power user features of filtering and a chronological timeline, and all of that stuff.
posted by SansPoint at 1:13 PM on April 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

Really doing their best to make Twitter the official home of Nazis and no one else, huh?
posted by Caduceus at 1:15 PM on April 6, 2018 [11 favorites]

Yeah honestly I'd much rather have Tweetbot display promoted tweets but otherwise be unaffected by this.

If I can't use Tweetbot anymore…I don't know. Twitter is incredibly sticky for me—a huge amount of my internet socialization takes place there. I don't want to have to leave. I might, though.
posted by Sokka shot first at 1:16 PM on April 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

Twitter does not care if you use a third party app... they care if someone else is able to analyze what you are doing besides them.

I'd postulate Twitter is doing this to ensure that they have content and control over the accounts that use their service. Having worked with the API in the past and knowing the problems which twitter had with our mining of the data - making it harder to use gives them control. A streaming app allows someone to do a fair amount of text analytics, reading, learning, substitution, correction, and so on. With the Machine toolkits currently available in something like Azure or AWS or hell - just straight python - you can build out a lot of segmentation models. Streaming through a third party app, means you've given a 3rd party permission to read your tweet - and intercept what you wrote, and build the demographic, firmographic, and/or psychographic model of who you are particularly if you watched Pretty Little Liars heavily and tweeted about it publicly (then I also know way too much about you btw). Effectively, the 3rd party app now has private message access.

On the good side, that means twitter could actually position this as a safety measure by keeping private messages locked down. On the bad side, it does make it so that if there is a leak or breach of twitter it is *solely* their fault. While I like single points of failure, it also means we have a single point of reporting out and now have to rely on the benevolence of our corporate overlords. So yay, Russian hackers can't create an app, put it on a store, and build a model of you based on your tweets without you realizing it. But Boo - if Russian hackers compromise twitter, we rely on them to tell us.

Likewise. I've used twitter to encode different things and who says the 280 characters have to be human readable? I could tweet you several 280 characters streams and if we had both had agreed on an external encoding - the syntax of that tweet - could provide you the ability to read war and peace from a multitude of different sources. Maybe I'm giving you coordinates, or pages in a book, or the genetic code for codfish... who knows? But don't think that 280 characters can't contain a whole lot more information than just Drink your Ovaltine.
posted by Nanukthedog at 1:19 PM on April 6, 2018 [12 favorites]

I'm surprised Twitter hasn't killed off third-party apps a long time ago.

I use Tweetbot and if I had to use the first-party Twitter app, I'd just straight up stop using Twitter. "In case you missed it", ads, likes by followers showing up in my timeline... ugh, no thanks to all of that.
posted by Automocar at 1:37 PM on April 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

UPDATE: Twitter has postponed the June 19th deprecation date for their old API to an unknown future date. Doesn't change the fact that this is still a shit sandwich.
posted by SansPoint at 1:42 PM on April 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

the genetic code for codfish

User name up for grabs!
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:49 PM on April 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

I'm on a break from facebook that I expect will become permanent based on its effect on my mental health.

I lost interest in Instagram when they went from chronological to whatever bullshit algorithmic listing of posts.

I just restarted an old-school blog.

I will leave you, twitter. I will fucking walk.
posted by gauche at 1:55 PM on April 6, 2018 [11 favorites]

The weird thing about this to me is the change in the streaming API was announced a full year ago. Back then they promised that the new Account Activity API would provide replacement functionality. The news today is that several of the third party clients aren't being licensed to use that new API and/or that the API is only useful if you have a handful of users, not thousands. The Twitter Dev response about the delay really doesn't clear things up.

I wish Twitter would just say directly "we no longer want third party apps like Tweetbot and will turn them off". At least there'd be no confusion.

Facebook is also heavily restricting their API. They've spun this as a response to the Cambridge Analytica massive breach but it reads more like them trying to assert more control over which third parties they work with and how.
posted by Nelson at 2:01 PM on April 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

I switched to Tweetbot on desktop and iOS a while back because Twitter's native clients were hot garbage. If they nerf the APIs which serve them, it'll probably be what it takes for me to give up on Twitter, or (maybe) run it browser-only with my usual ferocious set of adblockers.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 2:09 PM on April 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Meanwhile, Mastodon has been growing slowly; there was a recent burst of signups related to some article (WaPo, maybe?), and the Fediverse seems to be generally more active of late. Mastodon is Twitter-like, but runs as a bunch of different servers with userbases restricted to each server. Servers, or instances, are run by anyone who wants to spin one up and maintain it. When you pick an instance, you have that local community feed, and also a federated feed including anyone you (or another user on your instance) follow from different instances. It has much more of a community feel, and lacks the celebrity, news, and centralization of Twitter, for good and bad.

With the growth come some growing pains. Unlike Twitter and Facebook, there's no corporation mining your data and selling it to feed you ads. However, it's clear that your data is visible to the admin(s) running your instance, and the instance (and storage of your data) is highly dependent on that admin. One popular instance,, is shutting down at the end of April after the admin made some transphobic statements. Pushback occurred, discourse was had, and the admin made the subsequent decision to discontinue operating the instance. The users are able to download their data, and are currently finding other instances to join. It's been an interesting process, and there are some discussions about succession planning and sustainable models for running instances.

Ultimately, I find it a healthier environment than Twitter, so I'm considering dropping birdsite completely.
posted by Existential Dread at 2:13 PM on April 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

Once they announce the API deprecation date, it may be an idea to use it as a deadline for leaving, putting a pinned tweet up, saying something like “This account will be deleted on xx/xx/2018. You may find me at”. Doing so, giving plenty of notice and sticking to it, may encourage contacts to follow one to Mastodon, when otherwise many wouldn't bother because you'll still be on Twitter and they've got better things to do than set up another account somewhere else.

When life gives you crap, make crapade.
posted by acb at 2:27 PM on April 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

Tweetbot is the only thing that makes Twitter useful for me. Filtering, muting, pure's so much more tolerable. I'll open the native app to post a gif now and then and it's such a garbage fire. Glad to see they postponed the date but I suspect I'll start winding things down there. Just another straw of hay on the camel's back.
posted by msbutah at 2:58 PM on April 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

I wonder how many customers all those clients have if they clubbed together? If it was a significant number they could setup a new Mastodon instance, create accounts for every customer and then switch over the entire stream on the day the Twitter API dies.
posted by Lanark at 3:03 PM on April 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

> Automatic refresh of your timeline just won't work: there is no web server on your mobile device or desktop computer that Twitter can contact with updates.

I don't understand what's stopping the app developers from creating a central server for the webhooks and then proxying them to mobile clients using whatever protocol they want.
posted by mdash at 3:33 PM on April 6, 2018

I wonder if GDPR has something to do with it.
posted by Annika Cicada at 3:35 PM on April 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Annika Cicada: I can’t imagine how.
posted by SansPoint at 3:37 PM on April 6, 2018

Depending on how data leaves twitters service, like, if you want to be forgotten on twitter how does twitter know that tweetedeck servers have complied with your request? Twitter is responsible for data shared with 3rd parties and allowing API access with a token could imply that tweetdeck and related services are 3rd parties.

I’m dealing with GDPR right now and it’s a freaking nightmare how careless US companies have been about protecting privacy. It makes sense that social media companies are locking down and shutting down API access.
posted by Annika Cicada at 3:48 PM on April 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

Is there a Mastodon client in the same class as Tweetbot in terms of quality and usability?
posted by adamsc at 5:14 PM on April 6, 2018

Last week, first thing in the morning I opened Twitter and inadvertently read a couple racist asshole’s tweets and then saw someone beating the shit out of a dog in the front seat of a car. So I kicked myself off Twitter for the past week and it’s been delightful. Deleted it off my phone but I think I favourited something in my browser yesterday, other than that nothing. Really does change your day.
I can’t seem to get into Mastodon. I’m trying.
posted by chococat at 5:38 PM on April 6, 2018

Is there a Mastodon client in the same class as Tweetbot in terms of quality and usability?

The two I use, Amaroq and Toodon, are ... okay, but not in the same league. Tootdon is the better in terms of UX.


There was a recently kerfuffle because it's been found out that Tootdon and pushing public toots in your feed to their own servers for indexing.
posted by aurynn at 5:59 PM on April 6, 2018

You know how instantly awesome would be? A lot.
posted by wobh at 6:18 PM on April 6, 2018 [9 favorites]

Makes me long for the days of Usenet...
posted by lhauser at 7:10 PM on April 6, 2018

> wobh:
"You know how instantly awesome would be? A lot."

I bet if you wanted to build and host that, The Cabal might be willing to hook you up with the domain name...
posted by Samizdata at 9:02 PM on April 6, 2018

My twitter account got so complex and bloated after ten years that I retired it, and started a new account, supposedly with just academic follows. It has started to bloat as well.

The Fediverse sounds really interesting. I'll have to use my Mastodon account.

I would like to have a text-only, phone-based social media app based on Nanofiction. You would write either a one paragraph story or a one paragraph journal entry for a status update. No images, no ads, no videos, just a stream of fiction/nonfiction.
posted by mecran01 at 9:34 PM on April 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Serious question: why do you prefer Tweetbot or other 3rd party apps over Twitter's own? I switched long ago to the desktop web app on Mac OS X and the native iOS app. They're great for me, and I'm a heavy Twitter user. (I mean, Twitter is terrible in so many ways, platform and company, but their desktop web client is no worse than Tweetbot IMHO.)
posted by troyer at 9:59 PM on April 6, 2018

I didn't know there was a Mac desktop twitter app. Oh well.
I don't use any third party social media apps or tools because I really don't want yet another random company mining my data, and I'm lazy.

Here'a hoping twitter's plan is to have a more secure environment, and a web site that isn't ridiculously slow. Because otherwise I'm fine with the site. I don't think I've ever seen an ad, and I'm just using my regular ad blockers, which are admittedly formidable.
posted by bongo_x at 10:51 PM on April 6, 2018

why do you prefer Tweetbot or other 3rd party apps over Twitter's own?

no promoted tweets, no "did you miss?" or whatever it's called, no "someone you follow liked this", no reply threading in the timeline, just a plain linear chronological timeline of tweets from people I have chosen to follow.

the only downside for me is 3rd party clients have no access to groups DMs.

I didn't know there was a Mac desktop twitter app.

there *was*, but it was effectively abandoned years ago and iirc was completely shitcanned recently-ish. I've been using desktop Tweetbot for ages.
posted by russm at 11:07 PM on April 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

The limitations of the current APIs already mean that Tweetbot can’t reliably display threads. I’m no fan of ads and will pay to turn them off in anything I use that supports doing that but they don’t really bother me in the official client, plus new features like polls and increased character limits are available sooner and the stuff it shows me that people I follow have liked is quite often interesting. Having switched a couple of months ago I wouldn’t go back.
posted by tomcooke at 11:59 PM on April 6, 2018

It must have been discussed before, but can we get Mastodon on the "Also On" Profile lists? Do the different instance domains make it too complicated? Even just displaying a full username like would be useful.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:07 AM on April 7, 2018 [2 favorites] Is this what happens when we obsess about a plate of beans and binge eat what we find when we can't sleep at night?
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:41 AM on April 7, 2018

why do you prefer Tweetbot or other 3rd party apps over Twitter's own?
Beyond basic competence — polish, speed, etc. — it’s built with your interests in mind whereas Twitter is trying to maximize revenue to get anywhere near the predictions they made for their IPO (they’ve run mostly in the red due to huge stock cash-outs for insiders which were predicated on the idea that they’d be bigger than Facebook).

That means that Tweetbot doesn’t have things like the algorithmic timeline (“hey, this thing you saw two days ago — want another pass?”) and it has really useful features like filtering and time-windowed muting which is great for e.g. anyone who doesn’t want to follow a hashtag for a couple days but must be murder on their “engagement” stats telling advertisers how many people saw a particular event.
posted by adamsc at 4:45 AM on April 7, 2018

On top of what everyone else has said about Tweetbot, I’ll add that it has great filtering tools, at least on iOS. I can mute by account, by keyword, by client (great for filtering out automated posts from annoying apps), and even by regular expression! There’s also a filter tool that lets me hide stuff in my timeline based on rules. I’ve been using one I call “Little Voices,” based on a now broken iOS client, that hides all links, media, quotes, and RTs so that I just see what text people post. It’s quite nice, and makes for a calmer timeline.
posted by SansPoint at 5:44 AM on April 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

I found discoverability on Mastodon bad enough that I ended up going back to Twitter. I got in under the bar for Flamingo and it offers turning off retweets per person which turns out to be extremely important for following friends who feel like it's their duty to make sure everyone knows how much injustice there is in the world. Fuckin' across it, Kate.
posted by Merus at 6:35 AM on April 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Retweets are the worst. I turn them off for every single account I follow. Tedious you say? Not with software! detweet is a bare bones webapp that I promise you actually works to do this. There's also the newer Turn off retweets!.

The main reasons people say they like Tweetbot boil down to "it works like Twitter did a couple of years ago". A lot of people like it because it's not showing many of the new features Twitter has added. Particularly the out-of-order timeline and the occasional showing of tweets simply because a friend of yours favorited them. I hate those things too but not enough I've ever switched to Tweetbot or whatever to avoid them.

Mastodon has retweets too unfortunately, or what it calls "boosts". You can turn off seeing those in the default web UI.
posted by Nelson at 7:13 AM on April 7, 2018

Just tried a few Mastodon apps on iOS. Amaroq and TootDon have issues that make them very annoying to use with VoiceOver on iOS. Tootle is usable so far so sticking with that. Right now my timeline is all-Cortex-all-the-time but that's because I only initially followed a bunch o MeFites when it was first announced and haven't come back to it much yet. If Twitterrific goes away I'm probably off twitter for good. I started absolutely hating how Twitter would fill up my timeline with tweets people liked seemingly to keep me using the app endlessly instead of how I wanted to use it which was to just see everything rom a couple of hundred accounts I follow.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:16 AM on April 7, 2018

Space Coyote: I’m mutuals with the developer of Amaroq on Mastodon, and I’ll pass along your Voice Over concerns. Accessibility is important and benefits everyone!
posted by SansPoint at 8:03 AM on April 7, 2018

Thanks SansPoint! Just getting developers to test regularly is a big improvement from the usual baseline so even mentioning it would be really cool.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:48 AM on April 7, 2018

Didn’t twitter go through this 6-8 years ago (when I stopped using it regularly)? They announced that they’d only give 3rd party developers 100,000 api keys, making it more difficult for an app to be a going concern.
posted by adamrice at 6:41 PM on April 7, 2018

Yes, that was the previously worst thing they'd done to developers who use their APIs.
posted by rhizome at 7:05 PM on April 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Interesting comments on preferences for clients - thanks for sharing - unfortunately, that's clearly not where Twitter is taking the platform. (BTW, I love all their new features - they work great for me. But Twitter the company clearly never understood that Twitter usage is very individual. I swear for a while they thought we were just there to follow sports celebrities.)

I am glad the "social web" is splintering - having Two Global Networks To Rule them All (Facebook and Twitter) is not practically sustainable, nor healthy for society. So we should all go back to forums and mastodon and slacks and discords and discourses and mailing lists and all those venues where people can create communities of interest and the next MetaFilters can be born. I do think Twitter will stay around as a "social dial tone/news wire" for certain interest profiles, but I fervently hope we've hit both peak Facebook and peak Twitter.
posted by troyer at 12:26 AM on April 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't understand what's stopping the app developers from creating a central server for the webhooks and then proxying them to mobile clients using whatever protocol they want.

Presumably you'd need a separate subscription for each user you wanted to service. What you propose sounds like it would work if we were talking about sending the SAME tweet timeline to everyone, but each user has their own unique timeline that the service would need to grab separately.

Twitter's war on third-party clients has been raging for years, and it's never gotten bad enough for me to quit the service entirely but I use an ancient-by-internet-standards client that stopped updating years ago because of API limits (Metrotwit). It doesn't even support multiple images in a post, let alone 280 characters or threading or whatever, but I've never found anything better despite multiple attempts to adjust to Tweetdeck or other third-party clients. It's so bad that I've even thought about making my own Twitter client from scratch in Electron that looks/feels like Metrotwit. Frankly, it's ridiculous.
posted by chrominance at 7:37 AM on April 8, 2018

no promoted tweets, no "did you miss?" or whatever it's called, no "someone you follow liked this"

Step 1) Install uBlock Origin or Adblock Plus.
Step 2) Apply your choice of the following CSS filters:

! remove "Moments" tab > .js-moments-tab.moments > .js-dynamic-tooltip.js-tooltip.js-nav[href="/i/moments"]

! hide accounts you've blocked when they appear in search results[data-you-block="true"]

! hide "who to follow" stream box*[id^='stream-item-who_to_follow_entry-']

! hide "someone liked this tweet..."[data-suggestion-json*="ActivityTweet"]

! hide "crap you missed"*[id^='stream-item-recap_entry-']

no reply threading in the timeline, just a plain linear chronological timeline of tweets from people I have chosen to follow.

.. can't really help you with that one.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 6:02 PM on April 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

That was fast! We seem to have Mastodon as an Also On service on our profiles now. Looks like you have to supply the url to your Mastodon profile, which is fine.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 5:45 AM on April 9, 2018

Maybe I'm not enough of a power user but it would be a pretty easy choice for me between having to manually refresh my timeline and not getting immediate notifications when someone @'s me with tweetbot or having to see promoted tweets and other forced content.
posted by Gev at 6:11 AM on April 9, 2018

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