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Posts tagged with "twitter"

Twitter Announces New End-of-Life Date for APIs and Pricing That Affects Third-Party Apps

In April, Twitter delayed a transition to a new API that was expected to have a significant impact on third-party Twitter clients like Twitterrific and Tweetbot. The delay came in the wake of an outcry from users of third-party Twitter clients prompted by developers who banded together to encourage users to complain to Twitter about the API changes that were set to take effect on June 19, 2018. Today, Twitter announced that those changes would go forward on August 16, 2018 – about two months later than originally planned.

Yesterday, in an interview with Sarah Perez of TechCruch, Paul Haddad of Tapbots, the maker Tweetbot, said:

“Twitter has a replacement API that – if we’re given access to – we’ll be able to use to replace almost all of the functionality that they are deprecating,” he explains. “On Mac, the worst case scenario is that we won’t be able to show notifications for Likes and Retweets. Notifications for Tweets, Mentions, Quotes, DMs and Follows will be delayed one to two minutes,” Haddad adds.

He also says that Tweets wouldn’t stream in as they get posted, but instead would come in one to two minutes later as the app would automatically poll for them. (This is the same as how the iOS app works now when connected to LTE – it uses the polling API.)

In addition to announcing transition date, Twitter announced pricing for its new API, and it’s expensive. A subscription covering 100-250 users will cost $2899/month, which works out to over $11 per user for 250 users. Anyone with over 250 users, which would include all the major third-party Twitter clients, is advised to contact Twitter for enterprise pricing. However, the pricing on the API's lower tiers doesn’t leave much room for optimism.

Third-party clients that can’t or don’t want to pay those prices will have to make do without timeline streaming and push notifications for likes and retweets. Other notifications will be delayed approximately 1-2 minutes according to statements by Haddad to TechCrunch.

For its part, Twitter has made it clear, that the functionality of the old APIs will not be coming to the new APIs:

“As a few developers have noticed, there’s no streaming connection capability or home timeline data, which are only used by a small amount of developers (roughly 1% of monthly active apps),” writes Twitter Senior Product Manager, Kyle Weiss, in a blog post. “As we retire aging APIs, we have no plans to add these capabilities to Account Activity API or create a new streaming service for related use cases.”

We contacted The Iconfactory, the maker of Twitterrific, and Tapbots,1 the maker of Tweetbot, to ask about the impact of the API changes on third-party clients and Twitter users. According to Iconfactory developer Craig Hockenberry:

A lot of functionality that users of third-party apps took for granted is going away. That was the motivation for the apps-of-a-feather.com website - to soften the blow of this announcement.

Hockenberry elaborated that The Iconfactory has reached out to Twitter regarding enterprise pricing for the new APIs, but says that he doesn’t anticipate the pricing will be affordable absent a significant discount.

On the one hand, this latest blow to third-party Twitter clients may be something that some users, including me, are willing to tolerate. On the other hand, this is yet another example of third-party client hostility demonstrated by Twitter stretching back at least five years that doesn’t bode well for the long-term viability of those apps. I asked Hockenberry what he thinks the changes mean to third-party Twitter apps. His response:

Long term, I don’t think there will be any apps other than the official one. I also don’t think Twitter realizes that many long-time users, who are highly engaged on the service, are also the people who use third-party apps. These folks will look elsewhere for their social media needs.

Given Twitter’s repeated hostility towards third-party clients, that’s a hard sentiment to argue against and one that gets my attention more than Twitter’s announcement. I can live with the latest changes to Twitter’s API, but if third-party developers conclude that their time and resources are better spent elsewhere, I expect the end of the Twitter I know and use today is closer than I thought.


  1. As of publication of this post, Tapbots has not responded to our inquiry. ↩︎

Tweetbot 3 for Mac Review

Tapbots has released Tweetbot 3 for Mac, which overhauls the app’s design, provides greater flexibility to manage multiple columns and navigate different parts of Twitter, and includes a dark mode. For the first time since it was introduced in 2012, Tapbots has also made version 3.0 a separate paid app, which means that existing and new users alike will have to pay $9.99 for the update.

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Twitter Delays Transition to New API That Threatens Third-Party Clients

Last April, Twitter announced that it would deprecate parts of its API that third-party Twitter clients rely on for their apps. Originally, Twitter planned to replace the functionality with a new Account Activity API on June 19, 2018. The trouble is, Twitter hasn’t provided third-party developers with access to the new API, which jeopardizes core functionality of those apps.

With the API transition looming, the makers of Twitterrific, Tweetbot, Talon, and Tweetings created a website to alert their users about the impact the changes to third-party Twitter clients:

After June 19th, 2018, “streaming services” at Twitter will be removed. This means two things for third-party apps:

  1. Push notifications will no longer arrive
  2. Timelines won’t refresh automatically

If you use an app like Talon, Tweetbot, Tweetings, or Twitterrific, there is no way for its developer to fix these issues.

We are incredibly eager to update our apps. However, despite many requests for clarification and guidance, Twitter has not provided a way for us to recreate the lost functionality. We've been waiting for more than a year.

The site encourages users to express their feelings about the situation to Twitter’s developer account with the hashtag #BreakingMyTwitter.

The response from unhappy Twitter users was swift. By the end of the day, Twitter announced that it would delay the API transition to an unspecified date in the future and provide at least 90 days notice to third parties before shutting down the old APIs.

Although it is good news that Twitter’s transition to the Accounts API has been put off, it doesn’t solve the issues that it raises for third-party developers.

Tension between Twitter and third-party developers isn’t new. Still, when Jack Dorsey returned to Twitter as CEO in 2015, he said he wanted to repair relationships with developers. It’s impossible to know if this latest episode represents a strategic shift for Twitter or mere indifference toward third-party developers. Either way, it’s a shame to see third-party Twitter clients, which pioneered many features that users love, under threat yet again.


Twitterrific for Mac and iOS Adds New Muting and Muffling Features, Plus Video

Twitterrific, for iOS and the Mac, has a unique, fine-grained approach to what you see in your Twitter timeline using a combination of muffles and mutes. Muffles are rules that partially hide tweets from your timeline, while mutes hide tweets entirely.

With the update to Twitterrific for Mac and iOS today, The Iconfactory has migrated muffles of users that were set up as mutes to Twitter’s mute system. Mutes can be created from the action menu that’s accessible from any tweet or a user’s profile. With the new system, a mute created in Twitterrific will sync cross-platform to all copies of Twitterrific you use and also register as a mute with Twitter, so muted users’ tweets won’t show up on Twitter.com either. Muting prevents push notifications of a muted user's tweets too.

All other muffle rules are unaffected by the change to mutes, but The Iconfactory has also extended the way muffles work. Any muffle can be applied to everyone in your timeline or just a specific person. For example, you can muffle all retweets, all retweets by a specific person, all retweets of a specific person’s tweets, or all retweets by a specific person of another person’s tweets. You can also muffle quoted tweets, quotes of particular tweets, or mentions of someone. There is a knowledge base article on The Iconfactory’s website that covers all the possibilities.

The Twitterrific update also adds support for video attachments to tweets. Videos must be less than 140 seconds long, but that’s the only limitation. On iOS, videos can be added from your photo library, if you long-press the camera icon, from any file provider, or with the app’s share extension.

The rate of updates to Twitterrific for the Mac and iOS continues to impress me and I love the addition of even more granular controls over my timeline that sync across iOS and macOS. If you haven’t tried Twitterrific in a while, it’s worth a look.

Twitterrific is available on the App Store for iOS and on the Mac App Store.


Twitter Launches Bookmarks Feature in New Share Menu

Twitter had previously shared that it was working on a new feature, Bookmarks, which would let users privately save tweets for later. Today the company announced that Bookmarks have officially launched and are beginning to roll out to all users across iOS, Android, and Twitter's mobile site.

As part of this launch, the Direct Message button previously available on every tweet is being replaced by a new Share button – hit Share, and you'll see the following three options:

  • Send via Direct Message
  • Add Tweet to Bookmarks
  • Share Tweet via...

The latter option will load the system share sheet on iOS.

Tweets added to your Bookmarks are available only for your private viewing, and they can be found by opening the app's sidebar and hitting the Bookmarks menu option. You can see the whole process of how Bookmarks work in the tweet below.

Everyone will have their own purposes for using Bookmarks, but for my own use, I'm considering saving links shared on Twitter for reading later. Normally I do this by saving to Safari Reading List, but Bookmarks may be a simpler alternative. Also, anytime I come across a tweet I want to share with my wife at the end of the day, Bookmarks should be a perfect fit for that.

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Twitterrific Adds Multi-Account Features, Follower and Following Lists, and More

Hot on the heels of Twitter’s abandonment of its official Mac client last week, The Iconfactory announced new Twitterrific features and a price reduction.

One of the highlights of the update is enhancements to multi-account support. If you have more than one Twitter account set up in Twitterrific, right clicking on the reply, quote, retweet, or like buttons displays a popup window for choosing which account you want to use for each of those functions. Alternatively, if you are in the middle of composing a reply or quote-tweet, click on your avatar in the compose window to switch the account from which it will be sent.

The Iconfactory has added several other nice refinements too:

  • Lists of a person’s followers and who they follow have been added to user profiles.
  • Avatars now include verified and protected status badges, although this can be turned off in Twitterrific’s settings.
  • There is a setting to turn off tweet streaming, so your timeline can only be refreshed manually.
  • Georgia is a new font alternative in the app’s preferences.

Twitterrific for Mac has come a long way since the commencement of its crowdfunding campaign last winter, and many of the shortcomings of version 1.0 that I highlighted in my review last October have been addressed. It’s fantastic to see Twitterrific continue to grow and evolve, especially now that Twitter has walked away from its Mac app.

To celebrate the one year anniversary of Project Phoenix, the crowdsourced Kickstarter project that relaunched Twitterrific on macOS, the price of the app has been reduced from $19.99 to just $7.99. Twitterrific is available on the Mac App Store.


Official Twitter Client for the Mac Abandoned

In the time honored tradition of releasing bad news at the close of business on a Friday, Twitter announced via its Twitter Support account that it was removing its Mac client from the the Mac App Store and discontinuing support for the app:

Twitter gained a native Mac client when it acquired Tweetie for Mac from Loren Brichter in 2010, but the company’s support for the app over the years has been half-hearted at best. As John Gruber explained on Daring Fireball:

Twitter dumped Tweetie’s codebase years ago, of course, and their Mac app has been garbage ever since they did. It’s all fine, really, so long as they continue to allow third-party clients like Tweetbot and Twitterrific to exist. But this “Mac users should just use the website” attitude is exactly what I was talking about here as an existential threat to the future of the Mac.

Twitter’s move is not surprising given the history of the app. Most Mac users I know moved on to third-party clients years ago. However, Gruber’s broader point is an important one. There has been an increasing trend away from native Mac apps and towards web apps and cross-platform apps based on technologies like Electron. Many of these non-native solutions are resource hogs, and even the best often fail to take advantage of OS-level features, which makes them feel out of place among native apps. Perhaps the rumored Project Marzipan is designed to reinvigorate Mac development, although it’s hard to see that working if companies like Twitter simply don’t care to provide the best experience on macOS.


Sharing Links from Twitter for iOS Appends Garbage to the URL

Last night on Twitter, I noted that the company's iOS app now appends a query parameter based on an app's bundle identifier when you share a tweet's link via the system share sheet.

As some have noted, this appears to be a recent change in Twitter for iOS, which is less than ideal as the resulting link contains a long string of URL-encoded garbage. More than ugly URLs, however, what bothered me was Twitter's implicit tracking of which apps users invoke to share links with – something that even applies to core iOS features such as Apple's own Messages extension.

I wondered whether Apple should consider this a violation of App Store guidelines, but it appears that Twitter isn't breaking any rules by appending app-based query parameters to their shareable URLs. Benjamin Mayo looked into this feature and explained how Twitter is leveraging public iOS APIs to read bundle identifiers from the share sheet – he even posted a proof-of-concept code snippet to show how it'd work in practice.

He writes:

In reality, this is very easily achieved. As part of the activity provider API, the system asks for content to share for each sharing extension the user has installed. The Apple framework openly passes the activity type to the app. Twitter simply takes the base URL it wants to share and appends the ‘garbage’ before returning.

And:

The important thing to note here is that the mechanism is innocuous and uses valid APIs provided by Apple. Twitter is not exploiting private APIs to achieve this. A cursory look at the app review guidelines suggests to me there are no grounds for Apple to scold Twitter (or any other app) for doing it.

My personal stance is that this is annoying but does not violate user privacy. Importantly, Twitter cannot append arbitrary information to its URLs system-wide; it is confined to cases where users share something from inside the Twitter app itself. I don’t really see a justification for Apple to amend the guidelines to disallow it. I just take it as another reason not to use the official Twitter app.

In conclusion, if links to tweets you copied from the Twitter app suddenly look longer and messier than before, this is why. Personally, while Twitter may be taking advantage of a publicly available API, I still think the implementation is, at the very least, in poor taste – especially because it's coming from the same company that used to scan users' devices to list installed apps and deliver "tailored content" based on them. Even though I won't stop using the Twitter app because of this, I wish Twitter would revert to standard, clean URLs when sharing tweets from the app. I also hope Apple is taking a closer look at this.

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Twitter Now Supports Third-Party Apps for Two-Factor Authentication

Earlier today Twitter announced that you'll now be able to use a third-party app (such as Google Authenticator, Authy, or 1Password) for two-factor authentication instead of SMS. The company has updated their support document with instructions on how to set it up here.

This is great news as Twitter was the last service with 2FA that only supported sending codes via SMS. Switching from text messages to 1Password (which I use for one-time codes) was easy: in Twitter for iPad, I went to Settings ⇾ Account ⇾ Security, and enabled the 'Security app' toggle. I then selected to use another app to generate my codes and opened 1Password on my iPhone, where I hit Edit on my Twitter login item and scrolled to the OTP section. Here, I tapped the QR button, scanned the QR code Twitter was displaying on my iPad with the iPhone's camera, and that was it.

Unless you specifically want to receive 2FA codes from Twitter via SMS, you should consider switching to a dedicated authentication app: these codes work independently from carriers and location, and they can be generated offline.

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