I will return to Twitter when…

As I’m catching up on some news, two posts today about Twitter caught me eye. First, very big news via Federico Viticci, that full tweet search is available even to third-party apps. Twitter’s limited search was the main reason I originally built Tweet Library. It’s fantastic that this data is now more easily available.

But it was this opening paragraph from Jason Snell’s article on Macworld about Twitter neglecting the Mac version that got me thinking:

“Three years ago this month Twitter broke its covenant with the third-party developers who helped fuel its initial growth and create some of its most innovative features. The message was clear: Twitter was in charge of its own platform, and while other Twitter apps would be tolerated, it would only be in limited fashion and for a limited time.”

It was around this time, nearly 3 years ago, that I posted my last tweet. My bet with Daniel is over whether I will return to Twitter within 5 years. People ask if I’ll come back sooner, and if I did, what it would take. I’ve often struggled to articulate those conditions, because I think we are seeing slow but consistent progress to unwind the developer-hostile decisions made a few years ago. It may be that in a couple years the environment will be much improved, but there won’t be any single decision that “fixed” it, or it may be that Twitter is doomed to have changing leadership and there will never be any guarantees.

There is one thing, though. There is one change that was made while rolling out the version 1.1 Twitter API: they removed support for unauthenticated RSS feeds of user tweets or timelines. If they reversed that one decision, the next day I would be back on Twitter.

I can pick out a single feature like this, among every other improvement that third-party developers would love to see, because the combination of removing RSS and at the same time locking down the API — those changes together best represent the move away from the open web. Any other incremental improvement short of unauthenticated RSS, no matter how welcome, isn’t enough.