Users still want third-party Twitter apps

Industry analysts describe Twitter's recent aversion toward third-party apps as move to ensure consistent user experience and maximize own profits, but users cry foul.

Twitter's recent clampdown on third-party clients is a way to ensure consistency in user experience, say industry analysts, who add that those that provide value should still be encouraged. Users, however, note that third-party Twitter apps seek to meet different needs.

In an announcement on the company's developers mailing list earlier this month, Twitter's director of platform, Ryan Sarver, urged third-party developers not to build client apps that "mimic or reproduce" the microblogging site's mainstream user experience. "We need to move to a less fragmented world where every user can experience Twitter in a consistent way," Sarver said, noting that changes had been made to its TOS (Terms of Service) to drive this effort.

Last week, the company officially banned third-party ad networks, namely, third-party apps that include paid Tweets on a service that runs on the Twitter API (application programming interface).

Frost & Sullivan analyst Jessie Yu noted that Twitter's request to developers came in a move to streamline user experience as well as allow more "in-control of user behavior" and information distributed via official twitter apps. This, Yu added in an e-mail interview, will allow the company to maximize profits from its microblogging service.

Daryl Chiam, an analyst with Canalys, added that Twitter is seeking to ensure user experience is consistent across PC and various mobile OS platforms, and "maximize the monetization potential of Twitter".

One of the company's TOS changes means third-party Twitter client developers are no longer able to display data from alternate services, such as "comment" or "like", next to Tweets.

Despite Twitter's tightened rules, analysts expect third-party Twitter apps to remain.

Yu noted: "The third-party application developer community is expected to continue the journey to integrate leading and emerging social media platforms with more user-friendly features available in the future.

"This trend is primarily driven by the prospective demand from end-users worldwide to access unified social media anytime, anywhere, and via any devices and any network."

Users want third-party diversity
ZDNet Asia also spoke to Twitter users who disagreed with Twitter's decision to tighten control on third-party client applications.

Singapore-based marketing executive Valerie Tan, who uses third-party Twitter client apps Tweeter and TweetDeck, said: "I think the beauty of third-party applications for Twitter is that they allow different people with different preferences to utilize Twitter in the way they feel most comfortable."

Account supervisor Chang Songfee, who is based in Singapore, added: "Third-party apps are what makes Twitter so fun to use and in so many different ways. Each app offers a different experience for the user which is great because people can pick and choose how they want to use Twitter.

"The Internet is all about sharing, which is why open source is such a hit. Limiting users to just one application will cause uproar in the online community," Chang said.

Tan noted that TweetDeck is user-friendly and efficient. "It's an application I can leave open on my desktop. It's prompt, it's efficient and easy to use," she said. She pointed to one of the app's features in which users click on a picture or video link and a new tab is opened within TweetDeck itself, instead of opening these links on multiple windows on the desktop which she said is messy.

Chang said: "It's also very good for managing multiple accounts. I would use it if I were a moderator of different brands or companies' Twitter accounts. Everything is very easily accessible and you can view many different things at a go, which is useful when monitoring Twitter media."

However, she found the app "too complicated" for personal use, preferring to use simple and fuss-free options such as Echofon or Tweetie, which was acquired by Twitter in 2010.

Chiam noted that third-party applications can sometimes contribute to the success of social media sites, for example, Facebook. While the social networking site should not be directly compared to Twitter because the former has a richer set of functionalities, he said Facebook's efforts in opening up its platform to third-party apps have been a key reason of its success.

"Many popular games such as Farmville and Mafia Wars have enticed users to join Facebook in recent years," he noted, adding that there are numerous types of third-party apps on the social network including for business, productivity, and entertainment. "I believe Facebook will continue to welcome third-party developers that operate in agreement under its specific terms and conditions."

Chiam noted that Twitter's latest move to restrict third-party client apps does not mean it does not welcome all third-party applications. "I believe applications that provide and add value on top of the basic Twitter platform will still be encouraged," he said.