Twitter API Issue #395: Why Twitter Isn’t Ready for the New Internet (Yet)

fail whale
Twitter is a monster, there’s no denying its force or its popularity.

Many clients want to leverage it in some fashion to get their name out in the social space.

A few months ago, I began work on a client project that leveraged the service.  The client wanted the app to tweet at various stages of the app’s usage, which to be honest, is no big deal for a good programmer, so I started into it.  Then, however, I hit a big wall.  Because I wanted Twitter to reflect that messages were posted from the app, and not just “via API” or “via Web”, I had to use the new OAuth method for authorization.

This method is pretty well known to developers, and there are a few libraries that do a good bit of the heavy lifting for you, but there lies the major issue:  The layout of the login page, as seen below:

Twitter login

While it seems okay for usage in a regular browser, if you get this page on a mobile device, it is not styled for the phone it is being viewed on, as shown here, on an iPhone:

twitter login_mobile

This provides the user with a rather bulky, hard to use, and not very stylized page.  Adding insult to injury, while this reflects poorly on both the developer and the brand, the developer has no input or capacity to fix the experience.

Though there are workarounds for this issue, the fact of the matter is, the developer shouldn’t HAVE to work around something like this.  Twitter has a responsibility to its end users to provide an API that is workable for all outlets, and with this they clearly are not holding up their end of the agreement.

We’ve entered an age where the Internet doesn’t necessarily mean “the desktop computer” anymore.  Consumers can access the web with anything from a mobile phone to a TV, refrigerator, alarm clock, or… even a shiny new to-be-announced Apple Tablet (Steve Jobs, if you’re listening…).

Developers and brands must contend with this fact when they design web presences and platforms.  For web platforms and API’s like Twitter to be truly useful, they must be flexible enough to accommodate (or at the very least let the developer accommodate) a diverse range of platforms.

Twitter is a pioneer in open development APIs – and if they want to continue to lead they’ll need to build APIs that reflect the new, device-agnostic Internet.

If you want to keep up with this, or voice your concern, you can find the issue here.