Did Twitter just tell client-app developers to stop?

The Twitter API announcement today has me stunned.

Instead of being pleased by third-party support and encouraging it, they talk about the need for a consistent user experience. They say that “the top five ways that people access Twitter are official Twitter apps” — but also that “consumers continue to be confused by the different ways that a fractured landscape of third-party Twitter clients display tweets and let users interact with core Twitter functions.”

The announcement says that “Twitter will provide the primary mainstream consumer client experience,” and that “Twitter has to revoke literally hundreds of API tokens / apps a week as part of our trust and safety efforts, in order to protect the user experience on our platform.”

Then it goes on to talk about about developer opportunities. There are a bunch, which is cool — but writing a Twitter client is not on that list.

Dave Winer summarizes: “If you make a Twitter client, you have a bit of time to get out of that business. If you were thinking about writing one, don’t.”

I’m seriously disappointed by this. Not as someone with a Twitter client, but as someone who likes the service and wants my fellow developers to do interesting things.

One of the cool things about Twitter is that the service sparked a bunch of UI innovation on the part of some very talented client-app developers. I want to see that continue. But it’s as if they said: no more. Stop. We’ll take over now.

Update: ReadWriteWeb, Twitter Tells Developers to Stop Building Twitter Clients:

Mainstream users are actively confused by different interfaces? And this is such a big problem that non-standard interfaces need to be stamped out? That just seems crazy, patronizing, arrogant, obnoxious and suspiciously arbitrary.

Another update: I’m just sad. So much of the fun of Twitter was seeing what developers did with it. That messy, buzzing “fractured landscape” was awesome, and I’ll miss it.

Another update: Craig Hockenberry answers the question of why third-party Twitter clients are important to the Twitter ecosystem by listing some of Twitterrific’s firsts.

11 Mar 2011