February 8, 2023

Bobbys Brane

Bobbys Brane – Business & Tech Blog

Twitter apps are still broken and Musk is still silent

3 min read

It’s been a few days since pretty much every major third-party Twitter client broke, and developers say they still haven’t heard anything from the company about what’s going on. The issues seemed to begin on Thursday evening, with some users reporting that they were getting errors related to authentication.

The silence from the company has been pretty much complete. “Still no official/unofficial info from inside Twitter,” said Tweetbot co-creator Paul Haddad in a Mastodon post. “We’re in the dark just as much as you are,” read a Friday blog post from Iconfactory, the company behind Twitterific.

As of Sunday afternoon, there haven’t been any tweets about the plight of third-party apps from either the official Twitter account, the Twitter Support account, or Elon Musk. (So much for “transparency builds trust.”) The company doesn’t have a communications department that we could ask about the issue directly.

Apps like Twitterific have since started displaying a notification to users to address the outage. “Twitterific users are currently unable to access the service,” the notice reads. “This may just be a temporary bug; it may be a more serious issue.” The Tweetbot app displays a similar message.

There’s been speculation from Twitter users, developers, and some news outlets that this is a move from Twitter to shut down third-party clients altogether. However, a Saturday report from The Information appears to confirm that the outage is deliberate. In internal messages viewed by the outlet, a senior software engineer says, “Third-party app suspensions are intentional” in a Slack channel dedicated to Twitter outages and other disruptions.

According to The Information, another employee asks 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 by saying that Twitter has “started to work on comms,” but that they aren’t sure when that information will be ready to share with developers.

Haddad says his company will be operating under the assumption that the outage is on purpose, and the Iconfactory post points out the possibility of “a new (seemingly unstated and unannounced) policy that is only being applied to apps with large numbers of users.”

Some apps like Albatross and Fenix have continued working for me and some others, though according to the latter’s developer, the Android version has gotten the axe, while the iOS version has stayed up. 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’s been contentious in the past as the company went through a period where it neglected tools for outside developers.

That appeared to be turning around before Elon Musk bought the company, though where he stands on alternative Twitter apps isn’t clear; he doesn’t appear to have said much positive or negative about them. However, his Twitter 2.0 has incentives to make its first-party app the only game in town; the company is desperately trying to make money, focusing on its Blue subscription service that offers features in its own client. Plus, third-party apps often don’t show ads, meaning that some users were potentially being left completely un-monetized.

It’s hard to tell whether the third-party client outage is due to the API. Attempting certain calls from my individual Twitter developer account seemed to work, while Twitter’s own API explorer tool is currently broken.

Update January 13th, 9:05PM ET: Updated to reflect that it’s now been around a day since the issues started, and to note Twitter’s continued silence.

Update January 14th, 8:45AM ET: Updated to reflect that been a few days since the issues started, as well as to include a report from The Information that indicates the outage is “intentional.”

Update January 14th, 11:58AM ET: Updated to add that some third-party apps are displaying notifications about the outage to users.