Twitter kills 3rd party app ecosystem?

Potentially anticompetitive shutdown by Twitter of third-party app ecosystem

Last week, a service (API) provided by Twitter allowing third-party software to interact with the social network was shut down.

For decades access via API spurred the development of a commercial ecosystem of third-party apps built around Twitter: software for tweet scheduling, business customer service, posting to multiple social networks, or analytics. Providing superior user control and experience.

The shutdown of the service, around which many SMEs and indie developers have built their businesses, has paralysed the entire ecosystem, with almost all third-party apps no longer operational.

It is a disaster for companies like Tweetbot, Buffer, and Twitterific, many of whom employ citizens in the EU; but also for indie developers in the EU, like Matteo Villa, who developed “Fenix for Twitter”, a popular third-party Twitter client.

The shutdown is also a disaster for users both commercial and private such, as myself, which have organised their use of Twitter via 3rd party applications, which provide extra features, higher level of user control of the information than what is provided by Twitter itself. I can move to other social media with mainly personal costs, but for companies, who have integrated their customer services with Twitter via 3rd party applications, it is a real financial cost to their invested work and contracts as well as lost future business because of lost and failed communication, when crucial tools suddenly disappear. No warning. No explanation.

Twitter has – to this date (16th January 2023) – not yet provided an explanation, or even publicly commented on the matter, and leaked internal messages indicate the shutdown was intentional has been reported by the digital news outlet “TheInformation”on saturday the 14th of January.

The Digital Market Act (DMA), which will come into force in May, will require services deemed “gatekeepers” to allow third parties to inter-operate with their services. The actions by Twitter are going directly in the face of the intentions of the DMA, and I see them as likely to be an anticompetitive shutdown by Twitter of a third-party app ecosystem.

This is why, I’ve asked the Commission the following questions:

  • Could Twitter be designated a Gatekeeper under the DMA following a qualitative assessment?
  • In this case, would the shutdown of this API breach the DMA?
  • What can be done today to prevent anti-competitive behaviour by Twitter?
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