Twitter’s API Lockout: Are Hootsuite and Flipboard Doomed?
By Colin Ryan
The Internet is in an uproar over recent changes Twitter has made to its API in response to third-party software developers. Those changes range from new limits on data refresh rates to an overall user cap for third-party apps. While some of the restrictions don’t present much of an issue, others have software developers worried.
According to Twitter, the new rules apply mostly to apps that “mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience”—Echofon, Tweetbot, etc. But having taken this first fateful step, what’s to stop the service from dragging other kinds of apps with Twitter integration to the chopping block?
Hootsuite, a popular social media management tool with an enterprise focus, had this to say about Twitter’s policy changes:
Those API rules apply to consumer clients that compete directly with Twitter. HS is not a consumer client, so they don’t apply.
I’d add one more word to the end of that statement: yet.
Sure, Hootsuite doesn’t compete directly with Twitter; but as a syndication app, it does compete with TweetDeck, an app that Twitter acquired back in 2011. While TweetDeck leads Hootsuite in market share, Hootsuite is growing rapidly—and if online reviews by several prominent bloggers are any indication, that’s because it’s the better app. If Twitter decides TweetDeck is losing too much ground, Hootsuite could find itself in the crosshairs.
Furthermore, what happens if (read: when) Twitter decides to expand into enterprise? Suddenly, Hootsuite would be a direct competitor, paving the way for Twitter to strangle a superior business-owner tool and replace it with its own undeveloped hatchling.
While not on the business side, Flipboard may also be in trouble thanks to a particular clause in the new API:
Tweets that are grouped together into a timeline should not be rendered with non-Twitter content. e.g. comments, updates from other networks.
In other words, Twitter is restricting how Twitter feeds can be displayed. That’s bad news for Flipboard, which aggregates news and social media content and publishes it in a magazine format. Add to this the fact that Flipboard’s CEO Mike McCue left Twitter’s board of directors earlier this month, and the outlook isn’t good.
How would Flipboard’s demise affect you? Well, for starters, you’d lose an eminently readable and intuitive tool for keeping track of your Twitterverse. More importantly, your Twitter followers that use the app would lose the same. Flipboard has a knack for cutting out excess noise and elevating your tweets, increasing the chances that your followers will read and share the content you’re linking to. Without it, you’ll just be another string of 140 characters in an endless string of black, white, and blue.
Competition is Good
You might be asking: “Why should I care about any of this? I don’t use any of these third-party apps.” The answer is an age-old capitalist axiom: competition is good.
Third-party apps exist because they either provide tools that Twitter doesn’t offer, or they do the same thing Twitter does, but better. In a perfect world, third-party apps would provide both an incentive and a model for Twitter to improve its products, which in turn help you use social media to grow your business.
Instead, Twitter would rather protect its profit margins and return us to the proprietary dark ages by killing the competition and nurturing its own mediocrity, leaving users to pay the price.
What do you think? Does Twitter’s API change spell disaster for users, or is it all hype? Let us know in the comments!
Published on August 22, 2011