Why is Twitter Cracking Down on Third-Party Apps?

There are whispers of an end of an era this week, as Twitter flexes its muscles against its own developer community. Some are speculating that Twitter is hoping to squeeze out most developers in order to build its own apps, while others think it’s just Twitter cleaning up to prepare for some big money-making moves in 2011.

As ReadWriteWeb reports, Twitter has just forced popular app TwapperKeeper to remove some of its features in order to align with its TOS. The TwapperKeeper blog, they were asked by Twitter to remove their “Export and Download” and “API” features from their website in order to align with the Twitter TOS “regarding redistribution and syndication of content.”

TwapperKeeper has until March 20th to make the change.

This move comes only days after a high-profile skirmish between Twitter and UberMedia. Twitter shut down two of UberMedia’s apps, the popular Twidroyd for Android and UberTwitter, last Friday. After a name change for the latter to UberSocial and several other feature changes, the apps came back online within a few days. However, we speculated that this was part of a larger problem between UberMedia and Twitter, and now it looks like it’s signaling a possible problem with the developer community as a whole.

ReadWriteWeb got in contact with TwapperKeeper founder John O’Brien who has this to say about the implications of Twitter’s strongarming his app:

“What I’m seeing is, anybody who is ‘syndicating’ content, ie allowing it to be downloaded and exported in any structured way, is running afoul of the terms of service. If it’s in HTML, it’s fine. The minute it became structured it became a problem.”

This means that we could be seeing many more app shutdowns and changes in the future.

Twitter has also shut off access to its API through whitelisting in recent weeks, only allowing developers who have already attained access to keep it – any future requests would be denied.

All of this could indicate that Twitter wants to clean up its third-party app ecosystem, pruning the leaves so to speak. The company might be looking to squeeze out the competition and create its own apps for basic services, or it might be worried about companies like UberMedia expanding too rapidly in the space and dwarfing their own services.

Many in the Twitter developer community are lamenting the recent moves by Twitter. Building an app or a company on the back of the microblogging service is starting to look less and less appealing, as Twitter tightens its rules and becomes a stickler for the TOS.

The current Twitter ecosystem might very well see some shakeups before all is said and done.

Image courtesy of updel