The climate for third-party Twitter apps has been wintery cold of late. A year ago, Twitter raised questions about the future of outside clients, flat-out telling developers to stop making them. Then, just a couple of weeks ago, Twitter put out another ominous-sounding post that caused another wave of worry.
At the heart of most of the susurrus is the fact that nerds love their third-party Twitter apps. Twitterrific, Tweetbot, Echofon and other apps in their arena have become beloved tools that many hardcore Twitter users would be loath to give up.
Twitter is clearly moving towards offering a user experience across all of its platforms that allows it to offer advertisers new ways to entice users to click. This includes their timeline ads as well as products like expanded tweets. Because third-party clients don’t offer these features, at least as of yet, there is concern among many heavy Twitter users that they will outlaw third-party clients once and for all, leaving us with only Twitters first-party clients to use.
Note that when I say ‘clients’ I mean apps that give you the Twitter ‘experience’ in similar ways to the official Twitter website, not apps that integrate the Twitter API into their apps. Twitter is just fine with those apps and encourages people to use its API to build interesting new products that leverage it.
That’s why the question of how many people really use third-party clients to access Twitter in a traditional way is an interesting one. If Twitter were to shut off third-party clients’ access to its API, could it get away with it?
Developer Benjamin Mayo has taken an interest in the topic and decided to collect a sampling of Tweets and break them down by client, in order to determine just how much ‘shutting off’ standard third-party clients would ‘hurt’ for Twitter.
To do this, he recorded a sampling of 1 million Tweets across a 9 hour period, collating the clients that were used to post them, in an effort to track down just how many tweets are posted from apps outside Twitter’s own ecosystem.
Note: We verified Mayo’s results against those provided to us by popular Twitter developers in order to ensure that they represent an accurate estimate. As far as these developers told us, Mayo’s numbers are very similar to what they’ve seen. The sampling isn’t perfect, as it doesn’t take into account every time zone and wasn’t taken from Twitter’s highly controlled firehose, but it’s a good basic estimate.
Here’s a listing of the top 20 posting entities, Mayo has the full list in his post: