Twitter cracks down on popular mobile apps

Tony Bradley
22 February, 2011
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The Twitterverse is abuzz with news that Twitter suspended popular mobile apps such as UberTwitter, UberCurrent, and twidroyd today. The services had not recently changed anything about the functionality or behaviour of the apps, which leads one to wonder why Twitter suddenly decided to shut them down.

In response to a Quora inquiry–”What was UberMedia doing to get themselves suspended from Twitter?”–a person claiming to be Matt Graves, director of communications for Twitter, states, “Today we suspended several applications, including UberTwitter, twidroyd and UberCurrent, which have violated Twitter policies and trademarks in a variety of ways. These violations include, but aren’t limited to, a privacy issue with private Direct Messages longer than 140 characters, trademark infringement, and changing the content of users’ Tweets in order to make money.”

I am suspicious about the authenticity of the Quora Matt Graves, though. The photo associated with the Matt Graves Quora account–an account with only 24 followers and zero mentions–looks nothing like the photo associated with Twitter’s Matt Graves’ LinkedIn account–which has an undisclosed number of network connections over 500. I could be wrong. Perhaps the photos were just taken years apart in completely different lighting?

Regardless, the answer seems relatively legitimate. Apparently, even if Twitter policies have not changed it seems to be approaching enforcement in a whole new way. One Twitter account that I work with was recently suspended. The account was set to automatically unfollow Twitter accounts that were not following back–and had been doing so in exactly the same way for over a year. Yet, one day Twitter flagged the behaviour as a violation and suspended the account.

Perhaps the behaviour of the Twitter account I work with violates Twitter policy. Perhaps the way that UberTwitter and twidroyd interact with the Twitter API goes against acceptable practices. If that is true, though, it has been that way for a long, long time. So, why is Twitter just now taking notice–and action–to enforce these policies?

The answer probably lies in Twitter’s own business and revenue aspirations. Twitter has skyrocketed into the digital consciousness, and has become a staple of social networking and global communications. Third-party apps like the services shut down by Twitter today have contributed in no small measure to the growth and success of Twitter, but in order to monetise the service effectively, Twitter may be attempting to funnel more users through the actual Twitter site, and the official Twitter apps.

I can’t say I blame Twitter. I almost never use the actual Twitter Web site. I did dump the Tweetdeck iPhone app for Twitter Mobile because Tweetdeck for iPhone was too buggy. If that is the issue, though, perhaps Twitter should focus on building a business and revenue model that embraces and leverages the third-party app ecosystem rather than trying to force some sort of impractical migration to native Twitter services.

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