Twitter has not yet explained why third-party clients such as Twitterific and Tweetbot stopped working late last week. But a new report and testing by an app developer suggests that the outages and lack of communication are intentional.
Messages in an internal Twitter Slack chat seen by The Information (subscription required) show a senior software engineer writing in a “command center” channel that “suspension of third-party applications is intentional.” Asked by another employee to talk about bullet points to use when addressing outages with product partners, a product marketing manager said Twitter had “started working on comms” but there was no delivery date, according to a report by The Information. :
Some Tweetbot users appeared to briefly regain account access early Sunday morning without being able to post, but later lost access again. This is because Tweetbot co-creator Paul Haddad replaced the app’s API keys, but all of his keys were later revoked. That result “proves that this was intentional and that we and others were specifically targeted,” Haddad wrote on Mastodon Sunday night, as noted by The Verge.
“I wouldn’t have changed the keys in the first place if there was even a shred of communication,” Haddad wrote. “I think, if nothing else, this will fuel the issue. Well, smaller but greener pastures.”
Neither Twitter nor owner Elon Musk mentioned the failure to connect third-party clients. Twitter’s status page said early Monday morning that it was all systems go, with no past incidents listed as far back as Jan. 2. “Enterprise” clients, such as business-minded apps that monitor Twitter engagement and track topics, seem to work as they do. some third-party client options, such as Twitterific for Mac.
Twitter has long maintained third-party clients that allow users and small teams to customize how they view, follow and engage with tweets at their arm’s length. Before Musk’s ownership, Twitter asked developers not to build them, restricted its API, and took away push notifications and auto-updates for customers.
Musk’s ownership, which began with sweeping layoffs and has consistently seen the company rapidly change policies and make its intent difficult to decipher, has led some industry observers and technology experts to wonder if the third-party API shutdown was simply an infrastructure failure. the company couldn’t fix it quickly.
But a more likely explanation involves advertising revenue. To explain his deep cuts at the company, Musk said in mid-December that Twitter was on track to be “$3 billion in negative cash flow.” The cash crunch is largely due to the $1.5 billion in debt service needed to finance Musk’s takeover, as well as a sharp decline in advertising revenue since his acquisition. Twitter has repeatedly sued landlords for expiring leases.
Twitter recently changed its iOS app to default to a tab that shows an algorithm-based “For You” feed, requiring users to regularly tap on it to view a more reverse-chronological “Follow” feed. Third-party clients traditionally offer much more control over how users can sort their feeds, and notably, they don’t display ads for Twitter’s “boosted” tweets. The company recently offered deeply incentivized ad packages after a sharp decline in its ad sales.
We could not reach Twitter for comment because its public relations and communications departments no longer exist. Musk’s last tweet, shortly after midnight on January 16, A lightly coded swipe on media as quietly state-controlled.