Did Twitter just tell client-app developers to stop?

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Brent Simmons responds to yesterday's baffling announcement by Twitter's platform head Ryan Sarver that third-party developers are now (at the very least) actively discouraged from making new client apps. It's baffling because third-party apps were such an integral part in making Twitter what it is today. One of them was even the first to use the word 'tweet' to describe what Twitter then called a 'status'.

Sarver's announcement is so vague and passive-aggressive, though, that it's not obvious at first what's being taken away, or how strict Twitter plans to be about enforcing the new rules. So here's a quick summary:

  • Other apps/services that post to Twitter (Instagram, Gowalla) are definitely okay (but a 3rd party app displaying those tweets differently from others is definitely not).

  • Apps that enhance Twitter to make it more business-friendly (HootSuite, CoTweet, Sprout Social) are okay (at least until Twitter decides the user experience for business needs to be more 'consistent' and takes that away too).

  • Finally, apps that display Twitter streams but aren't the official Twitter app (Twitterrific, Echofon, TweetDeck, Seesmic, Flipboard, plus dozens of others, both released and unreleased) are, to varying degrees, doomed. How doomed they are probably depends on the size of their user base, and how much shit they're willing to put up with from Twitter. I do not believe Twitter would dare ban Twitterrific. They might eventually want to ban Flipboard because it provides a decidedly non Twitter-like experience, but that experience got it named iPad App of the Year last year.

I use Twitterrific on all my devices these days because Twitter's own apps all have problems. The iOS app has the trending topics 'Dickbar'. The Mac version has several annoying user interface problems. I don't want Twitter to control my user experience, because I don't trust them to give me an experience I enjoy.

So, what happens next? How long until I have to make my peace with Twitter's apps or find a new way to follow my friends?