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As Secret Keys Leak, Twitter Needs To Decide What To Do About Third Party Apps

As Secret Keys Leak, Twitter Needs To Decide What To Do About Third Party Apps

March 7, 2013

Twitter doesn’t want just anyone to develop and maintain third-party apps. Because of this, the social network has implemented API keys that limit the number of people that can use apps such as Tweetbot, Twitterrific, and many others.

However, Twitter has never followed these rules when it comes to their own apps. While this has always been known, the API keys and secrets Twitter has used to override their restrictions have not -- until now, of course. The codes that Twitter uses for their own apps have now been leaked on GitHub. These codes, which take the form of a consumer key and consumer secret, act like a username and password. As The Next Web first recognized, Twitter has a choice to make now that the codes have surfaced. First, they can replace the codes with new ones so that third-party developers can’t use them. However, this would become little more than a “long cat and mouse game.” Second, they could loosen up the restrictions, which is probably a choice that they'd never make. Or they could completely shut down third-party access to their API. The choice Twitter makes could prove significant. Since Twitter first implemented restrictions, some companies have been forced to raise the price for the apps they create. A good example is Tapbots, which is still developing quality applications, but offers them at higher prices. The reason is so that they don’t exhaust the number of keys available to them. The company’s Tweetbot for Mac application, for example, is currently priced at $19.99 in the Mac App Store. Tapbots charges $2.99 for their separate iOS apps for the iPhone/iPod touch, and iPad. I’d hate to see third-party Twitter apps go away. However, I also recognize that Twitter has no obligation to keep providing their API to other developers. My hope is that Twitter will make a decision that is best for the consumer. However, I haven’t a clue what that decision should be. Do you have any ideas?

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