Twitter is, once again, revamping its developer relations

Image: associated press

Twitter is working to renew its relationship with developers.

Wait. We’ve heard this one before.

Back in October 2015, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey paced onstage in front of thousands of developers and said: “We want to reset our relationship and we want to make sure that we are learning, we are listening and that we are rebooting.”

One and a half years later after a flood of departures, a potential sale to Google/Salesforce/Disney, and the decision to sell its developer toolkit Fabric Twitter is announcing its biggest push yet to reboot its complicated relationship with developers. The company is releasing on Thursday a new, simplified way for developers to build on Twitter as well as publishing a roadmap, which will, for the first time, provide insight and transparency into what they’re building next.

While some continue to call the end of Twitter (and others gave up on the product years ago), the company is prioritizing more tools for developers in order to grow the site. “These efforts represent a massive new engineering and product investment in the future of the Twitter API platform, and in our developer ecosystem,” Andy Piper, Twitter’s staff developer advocate, wrote in a blog post announcement.

One of the steps involves creating an easier to use service overall. Twitter offers several developer products, including free APIs, services from data analysis group Gnip, and the enterprise-level Twitter API product. Twitter plans to simplify its offerings by releasing one way to get access to the Firehouse (access to all tweets in real-time), one way to access Twitter search, and one access for account activity.

The hope is that more startups will see potential in using Twitter data. “All of these APIs will provide tiers of access free access for testing new ideas and building new products; self-serve, paid access that provides increased functionality and rate limits to scale as you grow; and enterprise level access,” Piper wrote.

Still, why should a developer trust Twitter? As Box CEO Aaron Levie once tweeted:

That was 2012, nearly five years ago when Twitter introduced some mighty restrictions. Levie declined to comment if his perspective has changed, but a sour taste in the mouths of other developers and Silicon Valley elites remains.

“I have an app that keeps getting write restricted that does not violate anything that I can see. Twitter Support is no help. They refer to it being a bot which it is not. It does absolutely nothing a bot does,” Twitter user Paul Croubalian wrote on Twitter’s developer forum.

Piper, who joined the Twitter team in March 2014, said the relationships have improved. “I wouldnt be here three years later if I was still banging my head against this,” he saidin a phone interview.

Piper admitted that when he was recruited to join he had the same hesitations. “When [former Twitter developer relations head] Jeff [Sandquist] called me to invite me to join the team, I was like, ‘Look, Twitter has this reputation.’ He said, ‘You know we want to fix this.'”

Not every step forward has been smooth.

Twitter has its advocates. Twitter spotlighted Sprout Social for social media management tools, LikeFolio for investment sentiment tools, and United States Geological Survey for tracking earthquakes all powered by Twitter data.

United, the airline now famous for not allowing 10-year-old girls to wear leggings, said Twitter’s new tool for customer engagement is helpful for them.

Twitter is a place where our customers engage with us 24/7 about a variety of aspects of travel. The new features that Twitter released have enabled us to create real-time engagements with customers to offer an array of services, from discovering where to go on their next trip, to answering common travel questions faster and easier,” said KC Geen, director of digital marketing and customer acquisition at United Airlines.

United is a giant company, but concerns remain for developers relying on Twitter. A Twitter-shaped hammer came for mobile live-streaming app Meerkat back in March 2015. Twitter also has had to pull or revamp its API access for data analytics services like Geofeedia and Dataminr.

That’s one of the reasons Twitter decided to release a public roadmap, Piper said.

Twitter also sold off its developer toolkit Fabric to Google. Piper said that isn’t a bad sign of its developer relations, but rather that they he included can be more focused on their other efforts.

“One of the biggest elements of being a developer advocate is always listening. [Selling Fabric] gives us more opportunity to listen,” he said. “Thats really great for me. My attention is less divided.”

De Ville Weppenaar, a developer at @bluerobot_, said he appreciated the effort Twitter has put into specific tools. “They have done a good job of maintaining backwards compatibility and by allowing us to update our products, ensuring the new functionality is fully tested, before switching on the features for our customers,” he said.

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