Twitter rethinks its war against developers

Twitter on a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

For the past three years, Twitter has sent third-party developers not-so-subtle clues that they're unwanted -- its programming rules arbitrarily limit the success of unofficial apps, such as their audience sizes or features. That low ceiling might not last for much longer, though. Co-founder Ev Williams tells tech conference guests that the restrictive API was one of Twitter's "strategic errors." Twitter should be a platform that developers genuinely want to build on, he says, and the earlier decision "wasn't a win/win" for developers, users or even Twitter itself.

It's not clear what the reforms entail, although Williams hints that Twitter might not be waiting for a new permanent CEO to shift direction. Either way, it's easy to see why the company would have a change of heart. While Twitter is still adding lots of users, it's also losing money. Critics regularly accuse it of having a lack of focus (Williams now wants it to be a "real-time news platform") and doing little to innovate besides snapping up other companies. Stronger third-party support might save Twitter from depending so heavily on its own apps and websites -- it could ride the success of someone else's smash hit by selling ads and generating buzz.