Twitter API v1.1 could mark the ‘death’ of Twitter if it’s not improved

Bradley Wint
By: - 8th Jul 2013
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As major Twitter apps continue to grow in size, we’re now seeing how annoying Twitter’s API v1.1 can be.

When Twitter announced version 1.1 of its API, the blogosphere immediately blew up with articles about the negative repercussions it would have on 3rd party apps. Twitter tried to pass this off as a simple way of bringing more order to the tweeting hemisphere, but what they were really doing was giving 3rd part developers the middle finger.

We’ll admit that version 1.1 came with a ton of new and cool features such as the follow buttons, and Twitter card previews and embeds, among other things, but they also hit developers hard with refresh and user limits. For instance, each developer would be limited to 100,000 users per app and would need to request special permission if they wanted to add more users to their system. There are also design requirements that essentially forces developers to standardize the look of their Twitter apps, making it hard to differentiate themselves from the competition. While that’s not a huge deal for the end point user, one of the most frustrating things I’ve encountered are those API refresh rate limits.

I admit that I don’t tweet that much in comparison to other users, but I am always checking Twitter for the latest news and updates, meaning that I end up refreshing my feed many times per day or even per hour. I had only upgraded to Android 4.X about 9 months ago and was really excited to try out newer apps like Boid and Echofon. They worked well in the beginning, but many of them lacked the much needed features presented in the default app. Echofon for instance failed to load tweets between long periods when the phone didn’t refresh, making it hard to catch up on content posted much earlier on. I then juggled between Boid, twicca, TweetDeck, and a few others, but could never find the app that matched all my needs.

One day I came across Falcon Pro and decided to take the chance and gave it a test run given that it cost about $2. Not counting the one or two minor missing features, it was a worth every penny (considering I forked over $5 for the junk that is Echofon). I used Falcon Pro for quite some time without any problems, but then I slowly started to hit refresh rate limits which meant that I couldn’t refresh my timeline for a couple minutes. It was actually quite annoying given that I sometimes had to wait about 15 minutes before I could refresh again. The developer also ran into problems after he hit the 100,000 token limit and was temporarily forced to take the app off the Google Play Store. He had a chat with Twitter and had Falcon Pro back online just a few days later. However he recently ran into the same user limit problem once again to the point where he is now telling users to download the app separately and make their own Twitter Dev apps if they want to use Falcon Pro.

That’s a great workaround! Except for the part where there are still annoying rate refresh limits on everything. I threw in the proverbial towel and went back to Twitter for Android.

My experience on the PC was the same. I was a huge supporter of MetroTwit, but their app also suffered the same fate after only a year or so. Knowing that some tweets never loaded up soon became a problem to the point where I’ve switched to Tweetdeck via Chrome Apps or the regular web version of Twitter.

The Streaming option on Falcon Pro works relatively well, but it’s a WiFi-only feature because it can significantly drain your battery and eat into your data (for those more concerned about that).

We’re cool with ads, but why not allow 3rd parties the option to show them?

I get that Twitter needs to make money somehow, so why not make an API that forces3rd party developers to also display Twitter ads in their Timelines and Searches? Can’t there be some way to match content to ads within 3rd party apps as well? An ideal solution would be dropping refresh and user limits, but forcing all 3rd party developers to display ads in their apps, and maybe have some kind of tracking code to determine if the ads are present or not to ensure that they are complaint. Even though the related ads SUCK in terms of relativity, they aren’t obtrusive in any way to interrupt my regular browsing experience, and I admit I’ve even checked out a few of them from time to time.

If you want us to use default apps, at least make them more user friendly

I really hate the sluggish feeling of the desktop web app, and can’t stand the style of their expandable conversations. What’s even more troubling is the fact that conversations don’t always show the entire story from the beginning, something 3rd party apps were always good at.

For those managing more than one account, it’s impossible to do so unless you either log in and out or have two different browsers open at the same time.

The same problems present themselves on the mobile apps. It was great to see that Twitter integrated Android’s Holo theme into its more recent updates (on Android obviously), but there are still a number of bugs that haven’t been sorted out. Some of the them include the app not respecting the specified set ringtone, profile timelines not displaying all tweets, and it lacking features like content or user filtering or the ability to manage multiple accounts

Bring back Tweetdeck!

Tweetdeck may not be as versatile as more premium apps like Hootsuite or SocialFlow but it still has a really decent interface and makes managing two or more accounts very simple. It’s not like Twitter doesn’t own Tweetdeck, so why not use that layout and respective features to build a better app out of it instead of trying to force us to use a platform that’s not as user friendly and bullet ridden with bugs?

The effects of it all?

I have definitely seen a reduction in my Twitter usage over the past two months or so, compared to the olden days when I’d check it around the clock. My interactivity with my followers has also declined as a result.

Twitter has really forced its hand without giving users a decent alternative option. Forcing us to use their apps is not really a huge deal since we don’t have to pay for it in the first place, but the least they can do is hire a proper design team that can develop an app that is more user-friendly and includes a few more options for social media managers or for those who want more control over the kind of content they wish to see.

Facebook or Google+ may never be a replacement for Twitter’s microblogging service, but Twitter’s silly API definitely could be the knife that stabs them in their back and slowly kills them in the long run. By ‘killing’, I don’t mean completely disappearing from the social scene (look at MySpace…it refuses to die), but it gives room for new competitors to take advantage of that weakness they’ve created.

[Cover Photo: jez`/Flickr]

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