What Twitter’s API Announcement Could Have Said

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Anil Dash polishes Michael Sippey's pre-announcement of Twitter's new API v1.1, which has the entire internet throwing a tremendous (if possibly justifiable) hissy fit:

We have awesome news for Twitter developers: Today we're announcing the upcoming release of the biggest new set of features and changes to the Twitter API ever, which we're calling Twitter API version 1.1. We know change is scary, so we'll talk about what's new, why we're making these changes, and when you can expect to see them. Don't worry — it'll be worth it!

The TL;DR version of what's new:

  • More API calls for almost every kind of app, with per-endpoint rate limits
  • Better security by extending OAuth to all APIs
  • A clear roadmap for Twitter app developers to know what's encouraged, including detailed instructions on how to show tweets and timelines
  • A few new restrictions for people making traditional Twitter clients
  • When version 1.1 is officially released, you'll have six months to migrate from API version 1.0

The key word here is Dash's use of the word "awesome" in the first graf — his version is reassuring, welcoming, and gosh-darn-it excited to be announcing what will be for most users a big, big upgrade to the current Twitter API. The most frightening thing about the original post (and most of Twitter's communications these days) is Sippey's tone: half apologetic, half threatening. To be sure, the implications on third-party client developers (many of whom may need to close up shop) are a big, big part of this story, but it's really baffling why Twitter's management feels the need to talk to those developers like they're unruly teenagers, rather than partners who're on the losing side of a pivot Twitter has to make if they're going to remain in business.

It occurs to me part of the problem is that whoever was in charge of deciding on the message this Twitter blog post needed to convey couldn't restrain themselves to just announcing the practical changes — they also had to make a broader point about Twitter's business, or rather the business they'd like to be doing but aren't yet. While there's certainly interest in that topic, it's a much bigger topic. Hell, it's the kind of topic most potential Twitter API consumers/vendors/partners would probably prefer to hear straight out of CEO Dick Costolo's mouth, because requiring app developers to always display tweets in a tweet-like manner is a big fucking deal. (While I don't think Marco Arment's correct that there would be a ban on linking to or quoting tweets, I can't say for certain there wouldn't be such a ban.)

Then again, maybe Twitter is afraid that if they make too big a show of killing third-party clients, that could have the perverse side effect of letting the vast majority of their users know there even are third-party clients?