Twitter users – especially power users – love their clients. We get attached to them, almost more than to Twitter in some senses. We rely on the look-and-feel of specific tools to do what we do on Twitter quickly and effectively, and we get pretty nervous when things change.
Such is the case with the recent news that Twitter plans on cutting off support for a couple of its more prominent client versions, TweetDeck AIR and TweetDeck Mobile:
In a blog post, TweetDeck, which was acquired by Twitter in 2011, said that it would be discontinuing support for its AIR, iPhone and Android apps, and the mobile apps would be removed from their app stores at the beginning of May. It also warned that continuing to use the apps until then could be problematic — they rely on an older version of its API which it will be conducting tests on in the future, which could lead to outages for users.
This announcement left myself and others in a small panic, wondering what we might do without our favourite client:
— Tom Belknap (@dragonflyeye) March 5, 2013
@dragonflyeye It isn’t killed for desktop, though right? That’s only place I use it
— Rachel Barnhart (@rachbarnhart) March 5, 2013
— Crowley (@ChurchofCrowley) March 5, 2013
@dragonflyeye wowza. wtf? Isn’t it impossible to manage multiple accounts in their desktop/app?
— Michael R Murphy (@michaelmurphy) March 5, 2013
@dragonflyeye I use Tweetcaster on my phone, haven’t even downloaded the actual twitter app
— Chelsea (@xenaocton) March 5, 2013
@dragonflyeye a long as they keep the Chrome browser version I’m good
— Mark Dunn (@markd721) March 5, 2013
.. and so on. The problem is: the original article isn’t entirely clear what “desktop version” means and makes no mention whatever about the version most people currently use, the Chrome or FireFox extensions. For that, we connect the dot not connected in the original article and read the original blog post:
Over the past 18 months, we’ve been focused on building a fast and feature-richweb application for modern browsers, and a Chrome app, which offers some unique features like notifications. We’ve recently introduced many enhancements to these apps –– a new look and feel, tools like search term autocomplete and search filtersto help you find what you’re looking for more quickly, and automatically-updating Tweet streams so you immediately see the most recent Tweets. Our weekly web releases have been possible because we’ve nearly doubled the size of the TweetDeck team over the past six months (and we’re still hiring).
So clearly in the minds of those at TweetDeck at least, the Chrome and other extensions are here to stay. That will come as a comfort to a lot of Tweeps I know.
But this move is part of a wider move on the part of Twitter to focus the use of its API in more limited ways. It has been widely reported that Twitter wants to unify the experience of working with their product, which makes sense: as new users come online, the confusing panoply of clients that all look and function differently is an impediment to wider market saturation. Unifying the experience is great. For them.
Doing so, however, means taking our clients away from us. I’ve searched forever to find a decent Android client and settled on Plume. But I know Plume’s days are numbered, and Twitter’s mobile experience lacks the fluidity of managing columns of lists so I can monitor my news sources and friends effectively.
So the question still needs to be asked: if unifying the experience means cutting the power users whose content drives Twitter’s appeal off from the tools that allow us to do our thing, is Twitter also risking cutting itself off from the quality content that makes it worth reading?