Elon Musk Pours More Gasoline on the Twitter Fire, Kills API Third Party Access

Elon Musk has made Twitter even more unusable by formally announcing that third party API access is now a thing of the past.

Ever since Elon Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion, his efforts to burn the whole platform to the ground has been quite the sight to behold. Between driving as many advertisers to the exits, implementing massive censorship policies, causing spam and hate speech to spiral out of the control on the platform, pulling the plug on random servers until the whole site went offline for several hours, and racking up an insane number of lawsuits after deciding that paying bills of any kind was beneath him, Musk has been pushing an impressive campaign to burn the whole platform to the ground. Really, the debate at this point is whether Musk is intentionally driving Twitter into the ground or is he really that ridiculously stupid. Ultimately, the jury is out on that one because there is definitely mountains of evidence supporting both sides of that debate.

Probably one of the most remarkable things these days is the idea that Twitter is still standing despite everything Musk has done to the platform. It may be a testament to just how well built the original engineers made Twitter before they were all fired. Regardless, Twitter is still standing, regardless of how downright unusable the whole platform is these days. Earlier this month, however, third party apps that use the Twitter API were notably non-functional. From 9to5Mac:

Tweetbot, Twitteriffic, and other popular third-party clients for Twitter are still completely broken due to issues with Twitter’s API. Despite growing complaints from Twitter users and developers alike, Elon Musk has remained silent. This is leading some people to speculate that this change is intentional and that Twitter is shutting down third-party clients altogether.

Some of the thinking behind the scenes is that Musk must’ve broken something again. After pulling the whole site offline already at one point, that’s not a terrible guess to make. Regardless of reasoning, it seems that Musk and Twitter have finally broken their silence and saying that such service is never coming back. From TechDirt:

Last week, Twitter (with no notice or explanation) seemed to cut off API access to the most popular 3rd party Twitter clients. It was unclear if this was done on purpose or not. Earlier this week, it became pretty damn clear that it was done on purpose, after one of those providers, Tweetbot, dug up an old unused API key and tried to switch it in… only to have it cut off soon after.

Then, on Tuesday, Twitter put out this oddly worded statement about the API.

Developers of popular apps insisted that this was bullshit. They’ve been abiding by the API’s rules from day one. They could find no “long-standing” rule that they violated.

On Thursday, two days after this statement, and six days after the API was cut off… Twitter quietly amended its “long-standing” Developer Agreement to effectively ban third party apps. Specifically, in the “restrictions” list, a new clause was added saying that you can’t use an API to “create a substitute or similar service or product to the Twitter Applications,” meaning no more third party apps.

It’s quite possible that something once again broke behind the scenes and the existing engineering team has no clue about how to bring it back. Rather than own up to blowing something else up, they probably figured that it was best to pretend that this whole thing was intentional and announce that they were banning third party support of its API. I mean, it sure all sounds good on paper. Just a last minute tweak of the API rules, call it “longstanding” and dust your hands of the whole thing.

Of course, a major problem with all of this is the fact that many users have been using these third party apps for quite some time. It’s unclear how many of them consider this the red line before finally making the jump to Mastodon, Tumblr, or some other competing website. Still, it’s definitely not a recipe to retain users who depend on these third party apps in the first place. As the Techdirt article notes, some have already announced that they were finally jumping ship to other networks because of this.

Currently, Mastodon has reached just over 9.2 million users as per a recent reading. It’ll be interesting to see if this latest move will help push Mastodon to the magical 10 million user mark.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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