The Hills Are Greener: Blue Birds Don’t Like Green Robots

The Hills Are Greener: Blue Birds Don’t Like Green Robots

Nov 19, 2012

Twitter has a problem on Android. It’s just not a whole lot of fun to use on a serious basis thanks to the mediocre official app, and thanks to Twitter’s policies regarding third-party clients, it’s not going to get any better unless Twitter makes it better.

The disdain for third-party clients is why it was shocking to see Echofon make the jump to Android. Coincidentally, after Echofon’s release on Google Play, another well-loved Twitter app, Tweet Lanes, had an announcement from its developer: the app’s development was being suspended due to Twitter’s limits. It was feature-incomplete, but possibly the best Twitter app for Android because of how well-designed it was. But it’s dead for all intents and purposes now.

While their app is fundamentally buggy and clunky on Android (considering it’s an iOS product first and foremost), Twitter, for what it’s worth, is going for a consistent look and feel aacross its various mobile products. That’s to be commended. But it feels like there’s too tight of a coherence to these principles to work well on Android. The mobile browser version isn’t much better either. Surely there has to be a way to do both a great app that runs well too.

So this leaves Android users in a lurch: the future of third-party apps is dim. Echofon has a $4.99 Pro version now, but once they hit 100,000 users, they’re done. The same goes for every Twitter client going forward: they can only get so many users before being shut down, because Twitter’s really not going to raise the limit on standard clients; perhaps if one does things in a way that really differentiates from what Twitter is doing, then perhaps, but it seems highly unlikely.

Compare this situation to iOS where multiple clients have been established: Tweetbot is probably the most-popular choice, Twittelator is a long-active client with multiple versions, Twitteriffic has been updated for iOS 6 and iPhone 5 features, and there’s plenty of smaller clients out there. But these clients are dead apps walking. Eventually, it will be untenable for them to keep expanding their apps. They will need to work on something else.

Twitter wants to control the mainstream client experience. Developers and their clients helped them get established: now they’re tossing them aside because they see the future in a way that they get to control the experience entirely. But here’s the thing: they need to make sure that experience is a good one on Android. It’s the biggest mobile platform out there, and it deserves an app that works well, not the mediocre experience that Twitter is currently pushing on the platform. And if Twitter is unwilling to provide such an experience, then they should allow others to do so.