More brief thoughts on the end of Twitter apps

I was re-reading Craig Hockenberry’s post on the third-party Twitter apps shutdown. It’s a great post, channeling the frustration of so many developers and users. And I love that it’s on his blog, not as a tweet or toot. Ideas and writing sometimes need space to breath on the web.

Everyone had a different last straw with Twitter. It helped to have a villain in Elon Musk who could be blamed for every bad decision in the growing narrative of Twitter acquisition chaos.

But one problem with pinning everything on Elon is that it leaves open the possibility that maybe Twitter would be fine if the company was led by a different CEO who continued the Twitter API status quo. I don’t think so. Twitter wasn’t going to last forever because massive ad-based silos will always be at odds with the open web. Twitter’s recent implosion greatly accelerated what would need to happen regardless.

Today we got Twitter’s first public statement that the apps shutdown was about API rules. Remember back in 2012 they announced that apps could not have more than 100k users, even if popular apps at the time were exempted. There were other restrictions too, largely ignored. Third-party Twitter apps were living on borrowed time, strung along with false hope every few years as Twitter’s leadership drifted back and forth on whether to encourage developers or cut them off.

Craig also highlights open standards like ActivityPub in his blog post, and how the future shouldn’t be Mastodon-only:

Federation exposes a lot of different data sources that you’d want to follow. Not all of these sources will be Mastodon instances: you may want to stay up-to-date with someone’s, or maybe another person’s Tumblr, or someone else’s photo feed.

The sudden migration to Mastodon is going to make Mastodon look a lot like Twitter in the coming months. Don’t get me wrong: the migration is a great thing. Smaller social networks is one of the four parts I blogged about in 2018 for how to get out of the social network mess. But we need new apps and ideas too, to not recreate some of the same problems again.

Manton Reece @manton