Examining the Impact: Analyzing How Third-Party Apps Enhanced Twitters Evolution

Although many alternative Twitter clients were once supported by the company, recent changes have effectively shut them down. Some app developers speculate that this is in response to growing concern among Twitter users over the company’s handling of user data.

Developers are outraged that Twitter has decided to stop working with third-party clients, citing vague reasons like ‘long-standing rules.’ Developers have been critical of the platform for years due to its poor relationship with app developers, but this move could potentially cause even more damage. If developers no longer trust Twitter to provide the critical features that make using the platform worthwhile, users will be less likely to switch over in the future.

In many ways, Snapchat was built on third-party app integrations. The company’s founders originally developed the app as a way to communicate with friends using text and picture messages, and heavily relied on external services to help power its functionality. For example, the first version of Snapchat only supported sending images, which required users to add 140-character captions to each picture. Thankfully, developers quickly created unofficial add-ons that allowed for longer captioning and even messaging

  • The bird logo: Twitterrific, one of the earliest Twitter clients, started using a bird logo when it started and other clients also followed, according to a blog by one of the app’s co-creators Ged Maheux. The bird became part of Twitter’s official logo only in 2010.
  • The word “Tweet”: That’s right. The word tweet wasn’t really a part of the company’s vocabulary early on. Another blog post by Maheux quotes one of Twitter founder Biz Stone’s emails to users that use words like “Twitter-ers” and “Twittering”. Early in January 2007, Twitterrific started using the term “Twit”. The post notes that one of the engineers who worked at Twitter suggested the name from “Twit” to “Tweet”.
  • Pull-to-refresh: Today, it is hard to imagine Twitter without the pull-to-refresh button. However, Twitter didn’t have an app back then. This feature was instead pioneered by an app called Tweetie made by developer Loren Brichter.

Apple has consistently taken a contrarian stance when it comes to the design and function of their products. From the very beginning, Apple took a different approach

  • iPhone app: Incidently, Twitter acquired Tweetie in 2010 and then released it as a native official client. Twitterrific was the first company to release a native Twitter app on both iPhone and Mac.
  • Swipe to action: This was also a Tweetie signature feature that was discontinued when Twitter acquired the company. When users swiped on a tweet it revealed actions like reply, retweet, favorite, and share. The feature made it back to the official Twitter app in 2012.
  • Inline photos and videos: In the early days of Twitter, the social network allows users to tweet links to photos and videos instead of displaying them directly on the timeline. Brizzly was one of the earliest Twitter clients that supported in-line photo and video previews.
  • Image hosting: Initially, Twitter didn’t have any image hosting solution. In 2011, the company partnered with Photobucket to enable users to upload photos. Meanwhile, other services like Twitpic and Yfrog filled in that gap for Twitter. In 2015, Twitter eventually bought Twitpic hours before the photo-sharing service’s shutdown.
  • Edit Tweet: While Twitter first introduce the edit tweet feature to Twitter Blue subscribers last year, third-party clients have tried different things to provide this feature. Twitterrific introduced an edit tweet feature in 2014 by deleting and reposting the tweet on the back end. In 2020, Brizzly introduced an edit tweet feature by creating and storing a tweet locally for a specified time before posting it.
  • Thread reading: Twitter threads have become a popular tool for sharing stories in recent years. But it has been a pain reading threads on the native app. To solve this problem, the company acquired Threader and made it a part of the Twitter Blue subscription.
  • Curation: In Twitter’s layoffs last year, the company axed its curation team. Third-party apps can fill in that gap if Twitter’s API allows that. Back in the day, Favster provided top tweet tracking and Listorious curated intriguing lists to follow.

If Twitter wants to become an “everything app,” it needs to invest in its developer community. However, its owner, Elon Musk, has been notoriously hostile to developers and doesn’t seem particularly interested in fostering creativity within the community. As a result, Twitter may lose the opportunity to source future ideas from within its own app ecosystem.

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Max Chen

Max Chen is an AI expert and journalist with a focus on the ethical and societal implications of emerging technologies. He has a background in computer science and is known for his clear and concise writing on complex technical topics. He has also written extensively on the potential risks and benefits of AI, and is a frequent speaker on the subject at industry conferences and events.

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