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Twitter Criticised After Ruining Free Client

Max ‘Beast from the East’ Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope.

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Tweetro developer forced to charge money to keep the user numbers down

Twitter has become the target of heavy criticism in the developer community, after a popular client application Tweetro was denied a “token extension” that would allow it to add more users and keep its services free.

Twitter had introduced new, stricter developer guidelines in August, in an attempt to stop third-party apps from taking its revenue.

According to rules accompanying API (Application Programming Interface) 1.1, Twitter applications have a 100,000 limit on the number of users that can access the platform. Once an app hits this ceiling, developers need to request an extension directly from the company.

Twitter didn’t provide the extension to Tweetro, since it did not think the app addressed an area that its “current or future products do not already serve”.

Angry bird

Tweetro is a Twitter client aimed primarily at Windows 8 users. It features complete touch compatibility, and was designed in the visual style of Microsoft’s new OS. The app has many convenient additions absent from original Twitter client, such as pinch-to-zoom, dynamic layouts and the ability to open the links right inside the app.

Developed by New Zealand startup Lazyworm Applications, Tweetro was one of the most popular apps on Windows Store, and hit the 100,000 mark on 10 November. Since then, it has been unable to add more users because of Twitter’s API guidelines.

According to the new rules, which came into effect in September, anyone looking to expand beyond the 100,000 “individual user tokens” will need express Twitter permission to do so. The company had clearly said it doesn’t want others to “build client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience.”

Twitter did this to protect its revenue, since it relies on adding advertising and ‘promoted posts’ to the users’ tweet streams. The changes prompted many developers to say they would stop developing for Twitter altogether.

Lazyworm had hoped that since it had created the only native Twitter app for Windows 8, receiving an extension would be simple. Yet Twitter has refused to work with the startup.

“As you know, we discourage developers from building apps that replicate our core user experience (aka ‘Twitter clients’). We know that there are developers that want to take their passion for Twitter and its ecosystem to unique undeserved situations,” the company said in an email.

“Unfortunately, it does not appear that your service addresses an area that our current or future products do not already serve. As such, it does not qualify for an exemption.”

Twitter is reportedly working on its own Windows 8 app, but nothing has emerged yet.

Late last week, Lazyworm was forced to pull its client from the Windows Store, because it was unable to support new users. “Unless Twitter is willing to change their position, it is with great sadness that I announce we will no longer be able to distribute Tweetro for free,” the company told Windows Observer. It is now planning to release a paid version “in the week to come”.

Earlier this year, Twitter ended a three-year partnership with LinkedIn, saying it didn’t want others to dilute its “core experience”.

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