Twitter Dislikes Your (Inter)-Face - The UpStream

Twitter Dislikes Your (Inter)-Face

posted Sunday Mar 13, 2011 by Scott Ertz

Twitter Dislikes Your (Inter)-Face

In one of the strangest moves that Twitter has ever made, Twitter has decided that third-party apps are a bad idea and damage the user experience of their service. They claim that "the top five ways that people access Twitter are official Twitter apps" but also that "consumers continue to be confused by the different ways that a fractured landscape of third-party Twitter clients display tweets and let users interact with core Twitter functions."

Here is Twitter's response to the perceived threat,

Twitter will provide the primary mainstream consumer client experience on phones, computers, and other devices by which millions of people access Twitter content (tweets, trends, profiles, etc.), and send tweets. If there are too many ways to use Twitter that are inconsistent with one another, we risk diffusing the user experience. In addition, a number of client applications have repeatedly violated Twitter’s Terms of Service, including our user privacy policy. This demonstrates the risks associated with outsourcing the Twitter user experience to third parties. Twitter has to revoke literally hundreds of API tokens / apps a week as part of our trust and safety efforts, in order to protect the user experience on our platform.

We need to ensure that tweets, and tweet actions, are rendered in a consistent way so that people have the same experience with tweets no matter where they are.

Now, that seems counter-intuitive for a couple of reasons. To find out why and to see how this might affect you, hit the break.

First, Twitter's user experience is terrible. There is no need for them to protect the integrity of their system when it is the disaster it is. Many of the third party sites and services make interacting with Twitter an almost worthwhile experience. Well, as worthwhile as interacting with Twitter can be.

The second reason this announcement is surprising is the great success that Facebook has seen from third-party services. Many of the apps found on mobile platforms are not developed directly by Facebook, but by the platform itself. Take, for example, the webOS Facebook client. It is developed almost entirely by HP's team with little help from Facebook. However, the user experience seems to remain in tact despite Facebook's non-involvement.

In addition, Facebook services are directly integrated into many mobile platforms. There is absolutely no user Facebook user experience involved. Take contact integration on several platforms, like Android or webOS. How about the addition of status updates in webOS 2.0? No Facebook UI involved and yet Facebook loves these integrations. How is it that two services that are so similar could have such differing ideas about the user experience?

I believe it has something to do with the way the organizations are designed. Facebook is a company with a lot of wealth and a plan for making more of it. Twitter, on the other hand, still has no idea how to be a business.

So, what does all of this mean? If you are using a third-party Twitter interface, don't get too used to it. It won't be around forever. If you are considering making one yourself, don't bother. If you want to use Twitter, you had better head to their website or download their official app from your app store.

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