Twitter has released its new polling feature to the masses — but unless you tweet from its desktop website or mobile applications, you’d probably never know it.
The polling feature, which allows Twitter users to ask their followers a question that can be answered with one of two predetermined responses, is yet another of the updates to Twitter’s service that might never make it to third-party software, making it just another in a long line of features limited to Twitter’s official apps.
Other updates that haven’t made it to unofficial Twitter clients include the new Moments feature that curates news-related tweets into a single place, the new conversation view that makes it easier to follow the service’s frenetic updates, and access to the search index that has archived every tweet since Twitter’s debut.
Developers are also unable to use Twitter’s photo-editing tools, collect notifications in the same compact view as the company’s official software, or display the same information about how many people saw a particular tweet. (At least one app, Tweetbot, was able to build some of those features, however.)
All of these changes mean using Twitter through one of the company’s official, baby blue portals is different from accessing it through third-party applications. Twitter isn’t exactly taking more steps to kill these third-party apps outright, but it is doing its best to give consumers as many reasons as possible to use the official Twitter apps instead of others.
Not that the company needs to try to kill third party apps. Some have shut down because of Twitter’s limits on the number of users they can have; others have been demoted to side projects after Twitter hired their creators; and still others seem to have just been forgotten to the vagaries of a fast-changing digital world.
Daring Fireball’s John Gruber once described Twitter clients as a “UI design playground” that allowed app developers to tinker with features that might appeal to users who weren’t happy with other options. That changed — now there are just two regularly updated Twitter clients, Twitterrific and Tweetbot, available for the iPhone. Everything else is either dead, dying, or unpopular.
I asked Gedeon Maheux, the principal-slash-designer at the Iconfactory, which makes Twitterrific, if developers have access to the new polling feature, etc. He said:
As with any newly announced feature, it takes a while to digest what the scope of it is, if Twitter is making an API available for it and so on. Honestly we just heard about it so I can’t say one way or another. We’d love to support it of course, but as with group direct messages, Twitter never provided an API for us 3rd party devs. I hope that isn’t the case with this new feature but we’ll have to wait and see. Keep your fingers crossed :-)
Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey took the stage today at the company’s annual developer conference to address some of these complaints. “Somewhere along the line, our relationship with developers got a little complicated. Our relationship with developers got confusing, unpredictable. We want to come to you today and apologize for the confusion,” he said, according to the Wall Street Journal. He’d like to “reset the relationship,” he said, though it’s not clear how.
And what does Maheux think about Dorsey’s promise to change Twitter’s relationship with developers? “Making APIs like these available to all of us would go a long way towards that,” he said. Twitter doesn’t have to bend over backwards to mend its developer relationship — it just has to remove some of the discrepancies between the tools available to its internal developers and those available to third parties. Whether or not that happens is up to Dorsey.