On Friday Ryan Sarver, Twitter's Product Manager for the Platform / API team dropped a bomb on third party Twitter app developers with a post on the "Twitter API Announcement" Google Group that included the chilling line "...developers ask us if they should build client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience,” he wrote. The answer is no.”
Sarver's statement was echoed by recent changes in Twitter's terms of service. Techcrunch did a comparison of the new and the old TOS and it's pretty clear that Twitter wants general purpose third party client apps to go away. Existing apps can stay for now but their position seems precarious.
Regardless of whether Twitter brings the hammer down on existing apps, independent developers can't be pleased and I suspect that at least some will move their efforts elsewhere.
I use Dabr (mobile web), Gravity (Symbian) and TweetCaster (Android) for almost all my interactions with Twitter. If those apps stop working I'll be really annoyed. Twitter's own mobile web apps are pretty dire, there's no official Symbian app and the Android app doesn't work on my Motorola i1, which is stuck forever on Android 1.5.
I think a lot of Twitter users are starting to look at alternatives to the service. I know I am. In addition to the uncertainty around the apps I use, I don't like supporting companies that jerk their partners around. As a Twitter alternative status.net's identi.ca seems to be the leading candidate. It's open source, offers a superset of Twitter's feature set, has a substantial user base and a fair number of third part clients (list).
So I've been looking at identi.ca mobile web and app clients. Symbian is covered as Gravity already supports StatusNet and thus identi.ca. On Android it looks like I have a choice of Seesmic, Twitdroid, an official StatusNet client and several others that I haven't heard of. I'm trying Seesmic. It seems to work well although the process of adding identi.ca account is not at all intuitive. Here's how:
- Start Seesmic, press the Android Menu key and choose "Accounts"
- Press the Plus Sign icon to add a new account
- Chose "Twitter Proxy"
- Enter you identi.ca nickname and password
- Enter identi.ca/api/ in the "REST API server:" box
- Uncheck "Use XAuth" and leave the "Search API" box empty
- Tap "Sign In"
I also found dabr.myopiclunacy.com, a fork of Dabr that supports identi.ca (plus Tumblr and WordPress). I don't really know anything about it. The developer's about page isn't very revealing and I can't find the source code - so use at your own risk.
I'm going to trying moving to identi.ca as must as possible. It can cross post my notices (what identi.ca calls Tweets) to Twitter. The biggest problem is that most of the people I follow on Twitter either aren't on identi.ca or if they are they aren't active so I'm going to be:
- Reading my Twitter timeline in dabr and my identi.ca one in the mobile web client (I'd love to find a mobile web client that offers a merged identi.ca plus Twitter timeline).
- If you dual post everything on both services like I do, I'll unfollow you on Twitter so I don't see the same update twice.
- I'll post new Notices (Tweets) to identi.ca which will cross post them on Twitter.
- Gravity or Seesmic will notify me of new mentions and messages on both services.
- I'll reply on the same service that the mention or message originated on using Dabr or the identi.ca mobile web client.
I'm hoping you will join me on identi.ca (I'm @yeswap there too) so I can eventually drop Twitter entirely.