Yesterday, Tapbots released the latest versions of Tweetbot (iPhone, iPad and Mac) which bring a few new features but also support for the new version 1.1 of Twitter’s API. In supporting this, some changes have had to be made – partly due to changes to the APIs themselves but also because of Twitter’s display requirements. I wrote about these changes in a rather dismissive tone in August last year expecting them to not be a problem, which was apparently rather naive of me in hindsight.
The limits on the number of API tokens available for new apps means that Tweetbot for Mac costs £13.99, as opposed to £1.99 for the iOS versions even though their functionality is almost identical; if both were £2, then Tapbots would most likely run out of new API tokens for Tweetbot for Mac. That would lead to users buying an app that they then couldn’t. Tweetbot on the iPad and iPhone pre-date the limiting of API tokens and so are fine. I wrote a bit more about this in last year’s review of TweetBot for Mac, when it was at version 1.0.
What has changed
The new Developer Display Requirements now apply to all third-party apps wanting to use version 1.1 of Twitter’s API. There’s nothing especially controversial in there and the majority of Twitter clients will have already been mostly compliant. Indeed, at first, you would be hard-pushed to spot anything that has changed in the screenshot to your right.
One big change is that all Twitter avatars appear to the left of tweets. Previously, Tweetbot differentiated your tweets by having your avatar appear to the right of your tweet, to make them more obvious. Now, there’s no easy way to spot your own tweets on your timeline, although replies are still highlighted in light blue. Hopefully a future Tweetbot update will highlight your tweets as well, in a different colour.
The other major change is that TweetBot now, by default, displays both users’ ‘real name’ and their Twitter @handle. This can, thankfully, be turned off in Tweetbot’s preferences; having both looks rather cluttered, in my opinion.
On the iPhone, you’ll now find that on the ‘tweet detail’ screen, viewed by swiping right on a tweet, the user’s details appear at the top of the screen instead of the bottom.
What has been removed
Tweetbot used to provide 9 different screens, and now provides 8. The missing screen is the ‘Retweets’ screen, which let you quickly view tweets that you had retweeted, retweets by other users that you follow, and which of your tweets had been retweeted. This is due to the new API; if workarounds can be found it may re-appear in a future release. For now, to view your tweets that have been retweeted, you’ll need to open the profile screen, click the cogwheel icon and choose ‘View in Favstar’ which will display that information on Favstar.fm for you.
What hasn’t changed
As far as I can tell, the retweets screen is the only major feature that has actually been removed completely. Everything else seems to be present and correct, and this includes Tweetbot’s mute filters which let you hide tweets that you’re not interested in. Tweetbot isn’t yet showing sponsored tweets from users that you don’t follow, although I fully expect Twitter to serve sponsored tweets to third-party clients in future.
On iOS, Tweetbot was updated with new features a couple of weeks ago, so the changes mentioned above were the extent of yesterday’s update. On OS X, there are a few new features; thumbnails will now be shown for links to images on Flickr and videos on Vine. There’s now greater control over the preferences for the menu bar and dock icons, and it’s possible to disable notifications for specific users.
There’s no opt out
You may think that you can avoid upgrading to this version. Unfortunately Twitter is turning off the current version 1.0 of their API on Tuesday 5th March – less than two weeks away. All Tweetbot releases prior to yesterday only support version 1.0 and so will cease to work when it is switched off.
All third-party Twitter clients will have to comply with these new display requirements, so even if you switch to another one it’ll either stop working or have to work in the same way. Whilst there are still plenty of third-party clients on the iPhone, on the Mac, EchoFon recently retired their app and Osfoora hasn’t been updated in months.
This update is going to be controversial. Removing features, or any change to the detriment of the user experience, is never popular. But it’s wrong to blame Tapbots for this; it’s Twitter’s new requirements that mandate the changes. I think they’re misguided, but it’s Twitter’s service and we’re not paying to use it.