One of the things that’s great about social media is how hellbent all the companies seem on destroying themselves, usually in the name of “engagement,” but usually in the spirit of “we have no idea how our users use this service.” Consider Facebook: Users would like a place to post cute photos of family members and pets, and brag about big milestones. Facebook responded by offering up an algorithmic timeline that stripmines your activity for the benefit of advertisers and that contributed to destroying democracy. SnapChat: Users wanted the ability to share pictures that wouldn’t haunt them forever. Snap responded by investing in ludicrous glasses, insulting Rihanna, and releasing an interface so bad it had to undo it.
And then there’s Twitter. People come to Twitter to connect, to share links and resources, to make jokes, to rage about politics, and to complain about Premier League and MLS officiating. Twitter spent years dragging its feet about harassment and abuse, ignoring the activities of bots, and forcing you to see tweets from people you don’t follow. It’s frustrating!
One of the saving graces of Twitter for many long-time users has been the existence of 3rd-party Twitter clients, such as Tweetdeck, Twitterific, or Tweetbot (my own favorite, and a client RyanC reviewed several years back). These 3rd-party apps offered a great way to experience Twitter: they innovated with features such as pull-to-refresh, mute, or multicolumn layouts, but, because of the poor way Twitter exposed functionality through its API, you were often protected from the nonsense. I’ve never seen a poll on Twitter, for example, except in the old-school “Like for this, RT for That”-format. And things people like don’t get promoted into my timeline. It’s swell. (Heck, third-party clients are so beloved by those who use them that one of the original apps, Twitterific, came back from the dead, thanks to a kickstarter campaign!)
And Tweetbot has a brand-new app for Mac, one that just came out on Tuesday. I really like it a lot! I’m not going to review it, though. John Voorhees has written a useful, detailed one over at MacStories, and if “new Mac Twitter client” is a thing you’re interested in trying, I’d recommend that. But the new update costs $9.99, which is really fair. Tapbots have offered up a *lot* of free updates, and they certainly deserve to recoup some of the design and development costs.
But also this week, Twitter announced (again) that they’re breaking third-party clients, either wholly disabling features in their API or making them prohibitively expensive. (Trust me: Exactly no one will pay $16/month to access . . . Twitter.) And while Tweetbot and some of the other clients will work in some sense, it’s a little difficult to make precise recommendations about what to do next.
On the one hand, this is self-evidently an annoying move by Twitter. But it’s also a useful reminder that these services will always act to maximize access to your data, not user needs and innovation. So, what should have been a handy little product review is instead just an alert: if you use a Twitter client, it will probably break this summer. The Apps of a Feather website has some recommendations on how to respond.
If you use Twitter, how do you access it? Via the website? The official app? Or something else? Let us know in comments!