We’re big fans of third party Twitter apps such as Tweetdeck and Hootsuite here at Key Multimedia, and have found them absolutely invaluable when we have had to manage multiple social media campaigns for many different clients simultaneously. Twitter Apps

We also encourage clients who look after their own social media to use them as well, to make their campaigns more time effective and easy to monitor.

So it is with a bit of trepidation that we greet the news that Twitter has moved to drastically tighten its rules on apps that aren’t made by the company itself but which use Twitter’s API. Under the new rules announced yesterday, any new third party apps will be limited to a maximum of 100,000 users, while existing apps that have already surpassed 100,000 users will be allowed to double their current number of users, but add no more after that. This means that once popular apps like Hootsuite hit their maximum number of users, they won’t be able to accept any more*.

According to Twitter, the reason for these changes is to work towards delivering a more ‘consistent Twitter experience’ for all users. There could also be a strong financial motive at play, since third party apps compete against Twitter’s own software for users, thus denying them potential advertising revenue. From a business perspective, Twitter’s executives would ideally want to see anyone using Twitter to do so under their own roof, so they alone can profit from their content.

While apps that rely on the Twitter API are not going to disappear overnight, the decision to place a cap on their growth may well discourage developers from creating any new apps in future. The time and investment involved with developing them could now be seen as disproportionate to the rewards to be gained, especially if Twitter were to lower the ceiling for maximum number of users again in the next couple of years.

One of the biggest things that characterised Twitter in its early years was a fairly open and lenient attitude towards people adapting and using their service in different ways. This may now be giving way to a more hard-nosed business approach, and pulling up the ladder on third party apps looks to be the biggest sign of that we’ve yet seen.

*Tweetdeck, one of the big favourites in the KM office, is now owned by Twitter, so there is a possibility it may be spared the same draconian user limits.