These days, it’s a common phenomenon to watch developers build better versions of official apps, bringing in design and a lot of feature additions. This practice leads to a healthier ecosystem by giving end users the choice and contributing in openness of the platform.
But more recently, companies are becoming restricted and deciding to hammer down third-party apps, which are the bread and butter for many indie developers. Let’s have a look why these companies are going against them.
Twitter was the first to cut off oxygen to third-party apps
In 2012, Twitter announced to play foul to third-party apps by imposing severe restrictions in it’s API Version 1.1
As per the new API, any third-party Twitter client could have a maximum of 100k tokens, which in simple terms, translates to only 1 lakh usable accounts. Any third-party apps will be rendered useless once they reach this cap. As expected, tons of twitter client fell prey to this restriction including the popular Tweetbot for Mac and Falcon Pro for Android leading to a havoc amongst users.
So why is Twitter forcing users to use only it’s official apps? Simply put,
Twitter needs the ability to display it’s sponsored tweets and advertisements in your feed, which is only possible when you use the official apps.
Snapchat and third-party apps do not make a great love story
Last year, in October 2014, thousands of Snapchat confirmed a data breach leading to thousands of leaked private photos. Snapchat tried to defend itself by saying that it’s server had not been compromised but a third-party app leaked the photos. This may seem a valid reason for Snapchat hating third-party apps now, but Snapchat is a shareholder in this fault, too.
Snapchat doesn’t provide a public API for it’s third-party apps which results in people reverse engineering the apps to add new functionalities.
The topic is moot, but whatever the case is, Snapchat decided to threaten users to have their accounts locked if they were found using third-party apps. Eventually, users were forced to use the official client.
It’s WhatApp turn to divorce third-party apps
Unless you were living under the rock for the past few weeks, you probably know that WhatsApp made a lot of noise this new year – partly for arriving on the web and partly for axing down third-party unofficial clients. WhatsApp’s reason for divorcing with thirds party clients stated that they are unauthorized and could pass private data to other party devs without the users consent. Potentially true.
But it’s natural to expect people take things in their hands, when the talented developer team at WhatsApp takes ages to develop a cosmetically appealing design thus giving birth to third party apps like WhatsAppMD and WhatsApp+
A few weeks ago, WhatsApp decided to get on the train with Snapchat and Twitter as it sent a cease-and-desist letter to the developer of WhatsAppMD and started to ban users temporarily who were using these services.
So, is the era of third-party apps ending?
PandoDaily made a bold claim that this is the end of third-party apps. I tend to disagree. Things have worsened for the third-party developers since last couple of years, but there’s hope. There are social media companies like WeChat and Telegram who provide a proper public API and care about fostering the open community by giving users the right to choice.
Companies may cook the secret recipe for their apps, but it’s the third-party developers who put the cherry on the cake.
This maybe subjective: Yes, third-party apps are endangered, but they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. In developers we trust.