Historically, Twitter has had a tumultuous relationship with the third-party developer community. But in the last few years, the company has tried to appease the developer community with projects like a new API release and the “Twitter Toolbox” collection to highlight some of the projects.
However, under Elon Musk’s management, some of these programs are closing down — starting with Twitter Toolbox. According to multiple developers in the know, Twitter sent an email earlier this week saying the Toolbox program is shutting down next week — a copy of which has been seen by TechCrunch.
“Thank you for being part of the Twitter Toolbox pilot program. We’ve made a difficult decision to sunset Twitter Toolbox, effective 12/15/2022,” the email reads.
Twitter debuted the program earlier this year to promote certain apps directly on users’ feeds at a relevant moment. These apps included scheduling and thread maker/reader apps like Typefully, Chirr App, Thread Reader and Buffer; safety tools like Blockparty and Bodyguard; and measurement and analytics tools like ilo, Blackmagic.so, Direcon Inc., Followerwonk and Tweepsmap.
Amir Shevat, Twitter’s head of Product for its developer platform at that time, also told TechCrunch that the social network was also contemplating building an app store for third-party apps.
Twitter tiles pilot shutdown
In August, Twitter announced a test for “tiles” — the new version of Twitter cards — that allowed publishers and developers to include customized formats with a tweet. The idea was that when someone posted a URL, a format like an image, text, a video or a button will render automatically — just like Twitter cards.
The company is pausing that project as well. According to an email sent to a developer, Twitter might consider revisiting the concept next year.
“We’ve concluded the best path at this time is to pull back from this pilot and pause broader experimentation efforts related to Tweet Tiles. We still believe this product concept can offer value to our users and developers like you. We’ll continue to consider this work as we undergo 2023 planning and may opt to revisit it next year,” the company said in an email.
Twitter Developer Insider program
Twitter introduced the Developer Insider program last year to gather direct feedback about products and APIs. While the program is not deprecated yet, folks who are part of it haven’t heard from Twitter for a while.
Terence Eden, a developer who was part of the program, said that insiders worked on many projects, including labeling useful bots and testing out conversation APIs. He said the dev team was working on improving the search and expanding OAuth scopes so developers can get better access to certain parts of Twitter.
Eden and another developer, Somraj Saha, told TechCrunch that after Musk took over, activity inside the Developer Insider Slack group slumped as program managers started to leave the company. Saha said the group hasn’t seen updates from Twitter folks since the third week of November. So while there’s no official announcement from Twitter, the program is good as dead in its current avatar.
Future of APIs and developer relations
Days after Musk took over, Twitter canceled its much-anticipated Chirp conference, which was scheduled to take place after almost a decade.
After that, devs have heard nothing or little from the Twitter team. Many tools built around Twitter are already expanding their support for different platforms like LinkedIn and Mastodon. Developers of third-party Twitter clients like Tweetbot and Aviary are developing Mastodon clients to cater to the growing popularity of the network.
Typefully, a Twitter thread-making app backed by Ev Williams, told TechCrunch that it is planning to extend LinkedIn support to its users. The company recently debuted an AI-powered bot that helps you write better threads. It is also planning to improve the bot so that it can make LinkedIn posts better.
Chirr App, another scheduler, recently mentioned that it plans to continue support for Twitter and add features along the way. But it is open to adding connections to more platforms and it’s already working on a Mastodon integration. Bodyguard, a content moderation tool, said that they are looking to add integrations to TikTok and Discord soon. Charles Cohen, the company’s co-founder, also told TechCrunch that it’s considering scaling back Twitter-related development.
Developers TechCrunch talked with had varied opinions and concerns about Twitter’s developer relations and the future of its API. Most of them — including the ones on Twitter’s developer forum — are currently worried about not having a clear roadmap about the company’s programs related to third-party developers. A lot of them told us that it’s become hard to contact Twitter about development-related queries as the developer relation team has lost a lot of members.
While Musk has emphasized an engineering-led approach for Twitter, he has been mostly silent about the developer ecosystem. It would be a shame if the company’s work over the past few years to repair the relationship with developers goes to waste.
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