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Twitter Locks Down Access for Third-Party Apps

Storify safe, but Flipboard's fate questioned

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Expanding the tweets in one’s Twitter time line shows that a lot of people stick to posting through Twitter.com or one of its official apps. Twitter would like things to stay that way. On Thursday the company said that it would begin limiting the ability for third-party apps like Tweetbot and Echofon to replicate the Twitter user experience.

Twitter has had its developer ecosystem buzzing since a company blog post went up in June that said it would tighten up how developers can build upon the Twitter platform in order to deliver to users "a consistent Twitter experience." But until today, it wasn’t clear which developers would be affected or how. Now it’s clear—more or less. Twitter said most apps don’t pull so much data frequently enough to be affected, so those limits appear directed at apps that users choose to access Twitter instead of via Twitter.com or one of the company’s official apps. Twitter even singled out two of those apps—Tweetbot and Echofon—as types of apps it intends to limit.

But not all companies that syndicate tweets are in danger. Content-curation tool Storify and tweet-discovery service Favstar.fm are safe, though Twitter did include an interesting wrinkle in how companies syndicate tweets. Before Twitter had provided guidelines suggesting that the way tweets function on Twitter.com should be the case everywhere they appear. That’s now a rule. That requirement would pave the way for the expansion of Twitter Cards, which the company introduced in June with a number of partner publishers. That product lets a tweet expand so that users can read article snippets and view photos or videos without being pulled from the tweet stream. Cards can serve as the distribution vehicle for even more comprehensive content included in a tweet, such as an online video series, and requiring compliance could ensure that Cards reach all users regardless of through which app or website.

One company that Twitter didn’t mention but could be affected is Flipboard, whose CEO, Mike McCue, stepped down from Twitter’s board earlier this month. The popular iPad, iPhone and Android app lets users connect their Twitter accounts, so that they can view their feeds within the magazine-like app. Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment on whether the app would be affected. A Flipboard rep, however, said the changes should not affect the company.