The beauty of social networking in an increasingly mobile world is that users are given a choice. You may have a Facebook or Twitter account, but you’re free to use third-party applications to access your data. This means you’re not limited to a crappy client with a clunky interface when there’s a better one. Popular social networks make sure their API supports third-party apps for the best user experience.
But while these companies offer third-party access to their data, there is sometimes a concern over control. Granting access over a third-party client will sometimes result in differing user experiences — and yes, this includes monetization potentials, too. As such, in view of keeping their earning potential intact, social networks will usually make tweaks and changes to their systems and APIs in order to keep users in closer check.
Twitter recently made a few changes to its API that suggest it wants to keep users within its own clients. Twitter is also limiting the way other services can modify the display of tweets and streams, leading to a more standardized user experience. One of the newer changes is that Twitter no longer displays the source app or client that a user has posted on. So while we would previously see “via Seesmic” or “via Tweetbot,” the web interface no longer displays this information.
In short, tweets are now client-agnostic, as Matthew Panzarino writes at The Next Web. And so the question is whether Twitter is gradually edging out third-party clients. These links do promote third-party apps, after all. But perhaps Twitter only wants the highlight to be on the tweet, rather than where it came from.
Whatever the motivation, this only underscores the power of controlling the reader experience. Magazine-like social-reading apps like Zite and Flipboard are already growing popular, and perhaps Twitter wants to deliver a better user experience, even as its releases for different platforms — web, Android, iOS, mobile web — are likewise worlds apart in terms of UI. Twitter wants a consistent reading experience as it soldiers on to a billion users. Is it prepared to do this at the expense of developers?