Tweetbot’s Last Stand

On Win­dows XP bal­lot day, I spent my beat­nik-ass time mar­veling at the (seem­ing­ly) abrupt avail­abil­i­ty of some gen­uine­ly inno­v­a­tive social apps on the Apple App Store for the first time since iOS 7(?) Of course, I am aware that rea­son­able peo­ple would regard a “sneak peek,” NDA-vio­lat­ing, per­fect­ly Adobe Pre­miered app review to be pret­ty fuck­ing lame, and I won’t dis­pute any accu­sa­tions to the tune of “just an insane white guy with a Word­Press site,” but I still believe it’s impor­tant to talk about soft­ware espe­cial­ly because vir­tu­al­ly every­one uses it (as opposed to qui­et­ing down just when these apps and the peo­ple who make them attain the most advan­ta­geous pos­si­ble posi­tion to fuck the whole world.)

That said, I’m going to keep this as brief and unre­vi­sion­ist as I can: Tweetbot’s lat­est iter­a­tion may actu­al­ly jus­ti­fy the ded­i­cat­ed sub­red­dit I’ve just dis­cov­ered! (Reddit’s the last place any­one wants to talk about apps, I guess.) I’ve com­plained at length about Twitter’s increas­ing­ly hos­tile (but jus­ti­fied, sortof) treat­ment of its once aston­ish­ing­ly diverse land­scape of third-par­ty clients and tools, yet I’d hon­est­ly grown sig­nif­i­cant­ly in accept­ing that the dynam­ic would nev­er again see the pow­er of the world’s most cash-stuffed com­pa­nies deliv­ered into the sweaty hands of small, kooky one and two-man teams, and it nev­er would’ve occurred to me that Tweet­bot was still around — much less get­ting ready to update its trusty old app with a release that would sud­den­ly make it clear­ly more sta­ble and bet­ter-look­ing than its last com­peti­tor: the Native Fuck, itself, which has also under­gone sig­nif­i­cant cos­met­ic surgery, recent­ly. Name­ly, they moved the one fuck­ing but­ton that’s giv­en the app a usabil­i­ty pre­mi­um over its mobile web-based low-rent clone.

The com­pose but­ton has been moved to the bot­tom right-hand cor­ner and “floats” as users scroll down their time­line. That means the but­ton is always avail­able to quick­ly send a tweet when the mood strikes.”

Yeah okay, Matt.

Twit­ter Sup­port is no @Cher, yeah, but it seems strange that less than a thou­sand of Twitter’s more than 300 mil­lion month­ly users would both­er to engage with the announce­ment of a sig­nif­i­cant fun­da­men­tal change to its infra­struc­ture. Imag­ine if the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment announced via White House press con­fer­ence that every stop­light in the Unit­ed States was going to have its yel­low light removed to “stream­line work­flow” with­out any fur­ther expla­na­tion, yet only 1000 total Amer­i­cans even both­ered to tune in to the tele­vi­sion cov­er­age across all the news net­works. It’d be strange, yeah? Well, y’all are using Twit­ter more than you’re dri­ving, I’ll bet. Next time, get out and vote on my Twit­ter poll, you fas­cist!

In my Twit­ter glo­ry days — that is, when I used to spend the entire­ty of every one of my com­mu­ni­ty col­lege class­es Tweet­ing from my phone — there was a healthy offer­ing of third-par­ty clients on both mobile and desk­top that filled the eng­lish of the era’s soft­ware media with an absolute­ly bar­bar­ic brand-beat­en pile of lin­guis­tic Twit­trash. After Twin­kle — one of the ear­li­est and ugli­est ways to use Twit­ter ever — you’d have to choose between Twit­pic, Tweet­deck, Twit­ter­counter, Twit­ter­feed, Twhirl, Twit­turly, Twt­poll, Retweet­ist, Tweepler, Hel­lotxt, Twit­dom, Tweetscan, Tweet­burn­er, Tweet­vi­sor, Twit­ter­vi­sion, Twibs, Twistori, and Twit­bin. These are just a few I picked up from a 10-year-old TechCrunch report list­ing the top 21 Twit­ter appli­ca­tions by traf­fic.

Twibs.

Now, I have to stop myself from dig­ging too deep here and attempt­ing some­thing absurd like The His­to­ry of Twit­ter Clients, but the fuck­ing mate­r­i­al is there! I could spend an entire after­noon going through YouTube search­es and gad­get blogs because it brings me back to that time when I lived every day assum­ing these things were going to con­tin­ue to aston­ish for my entire adult­hood. So many incred­i­ble ideas! How­ev­er, I’m going to save them for lat­er and focus on the cream of the crop, so to speak: Twit­terif­ic and Tweet­bot, which has been a long­time favorite of mine. As I said, it was in com­mu­ni­ty col­lege that I first ponied up mon­ey for Tweet­bot 3 on my iPhone 4S sim­ply because the hype over it among app and gad­get nerds was so bonkers that it man­aged to spill over into my life, despite the fact that iOS7 and I were hav­ing seri­ous issues in our mar­riage.

If you trust Mark Wat­son with your life as I do, you’d bet­ter believe that Tweet­bot has been “a scream­er” since its very begin­ning, when it pio­neered the Pre­mi­um Poweruser seg­ment, for which a demo­graph­ic appar­ent­ly still exists. It was fast, yet always notice­ably smoother than the native app, just as the newest release is today. I must point out, though, that the blog­gers and YouTu­bers who’ve insist­ed that Tweet­bot or Twit­ter­rif­ic or any oth­er pre­mi­um app could replace the native Twit­ter app entire­ly on iPhone even before they were stripped of a most live/push func­tion­al­i­ty (which I’ll come back around to in just a moment,) are undoubt­ed­ly lying to them­selves — as good as they got, they nev­er over­took Twitter’s own app in imme­di­a­cy terms, which is almost inevitably going to present fun­da­men­tal deter­rence on the part of the active Twit­ter user who intends to rid them­selves of the default pedes­tri­an avenue of admin­is­tra­tion. Tweet­bot solved a lot of things, it real­ly is daft when it comes to noti­fi­ca­tions. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if they came a few hun­dred sec­onds late — it’s that they’re nev­er pre­dictably or con­sis­tent­ly so, which sev­ers entire­ly the human per­cep­tion of engaged plugged-in-ness, if you will. It’s the same phe­nom­e­na Chuck Kloster­man explores best in the con­text of DVRing live sports to watch lat­er.

It’s dif­fi­cult to project fic­tion­al sce­nar­ios that are more oblique and unex­pect­ed than the cra­zi­est moments from real­i­ty. We all under­stand this. And that under­stand­ing is at the core of the human attrac­tion to live­ness. We don’t crave live sport­ing events because we need imme­di­a­cy; we crave them because they rep­re­sent those (increas­ing­ly rare) cir­cum­stances in which the entire spec­trum of pos­si­bil­i­ty is in play.

-“Space, Time, and DVR Mechan­ics,” Chuck Kloster­man

Tweet­bot is unques­tion­ably a more thor­ough envi­ron­ment in which to explore Twit­ter than any oth­er third par­ty client, but it can’t do the live thing. Please do com­plain to Twit­ter, Inc. about the API sit­u­a­tion if you’re so inclined, but the sit­u­a­tion we’re going to find our­selves in

All I’m try­ing to say is, there is no fuck­ing rea­son you’d delete the Twit­ter app — hide it away in a fold­er and nev­er ever open it again if it dis­gusts you so, but leave its noti­fi­ca­tions set­tings on so that it can keep itself busy in there. Now that is a smart work­flow! In fact, it was mine! And it did work for such a long time that you’d prob­a­bly for­get about the arrange­ment in no time were there not the occa­sion­al obvi­ous dis­crep­an­cies between Tweetbot’s Mention’s tab and the native app’s instant noti­fi­ca­tions. There has nev­er been — nor will there be, I think — a client for Twit­ter that can replace some use of its own prop­er­ties.

I think Tweet­bot 3 made me into my own ridicu­lous equiv­a­lent of a “Poweruser.” Things are a lit­tle hazy now, but I know that I depart­ed my main Twit­ter account just before the app’s release, and I didn’t come back until 2015. I was going to school in the same old mall build­ing that housed the tool store in which I was also work­ing in full-time, which is sure­ly the only expla­na­tion for the shame­less­ness I demon­strat­ed in bring­ing a wire­less Apple Blue­tooth key­board to my class­es and plac­ing it behind the phone on what­ev­er sur­face was in front of me so that I could lean for­ward and type into iOS with my nose damned near touch­ing the screen. Strange­ly, I was not able to ver­i­fy when Blue­tooth key­board sup­port was added to iOS, but we’re going to con­clude for the sake of con­ve­nience that it was first includ­ed in the imme­di­ate pre­de­ces­sor to the iPhone 4S I was using then.

The cognoscen­ti have been on Twit­ter for years now. Stephen Fry, the web service’s patron saint — in Britain at least, joined in 2008. How­ev­er, it wasn’t until ear­ly 2009, xsome­where around the time that Fry tweet­ed while stuck in a lift, that the ser­vice went tru­ly main­stream. Men­tions of Twit­ter, usu­al­ly involv­ing celebri­ties, could be found in news­pa­pers and on break­fast tele­vi­sion.

Top 10 tech­nol­o­gy high­lights of 2009” — The Tele­graph

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve already seen the demos and skimmed reviews at least. You should know by now whether or not Tweet­bot 5 is worth it to you in pure­ly func­tion­al terms, but I think we should all acknowl­edge that this release of Tweet­bot is like­ly the last com­pet­i­tive third-par­ty Twit­ter app for iOS. The mess that is Twit­ter, Inc. has made clear this year that it intends to pri­or­i­tize its own clients over main­tain­ing the APIs nec­es­sary for oth­ers to receive push noti­fi­ca­tions. And when I say “its own,” I’m also refer­ring to our dear­est Tweet­Deck, which they in fact absorbed. From a busi­ness per­spec­tive, it makes sense: only “six mil­lion App Store and Google Play users installed the top five third-par­ty Twit­ter clients between Jan­u­ary 2014 and July 2018,” accord­ing to TechCrunch. I nev­er expect­ed to see Tweet­bot on the App Store charts again, nor would I have con­sid­ered that Echophon, Tweet­Cast­er or Twit­ter­rif­ic would have been left avail­able. They’re on the App Store, at least, and I can con­firm that they all tech­ni­cal­ly still work, but it’s safe to say they’re show­ing their fuck­ing age. Tweet­bot and Twit­ter­rif­ic, though, are not just satel­lite prod­ucts of the plat­form — they lit­er­al­ly built it. These two are the poles that have spent Twitter’s life­time thus far demon­strat­ing for the com­pa­ny and its user­base their own respec­tive inter­pre­ta­tions of a mobile social appli­ca­tion. Today, they are unit­ed — along with Talon and Tweet­ings — in a plea for con­tin­ued access to the plat­form they helped estab­lish on behalf of Twit­ter users and devel­op­ers around the world.

Both Tweet­bot and Twit­ter­rif­ic are in their 5th ver­sions, and nei­ther has actu­al­ly changed much since iOS 7. (Twit­ter­rif­ic appears to still be in the same ver­sion num­ber.) Fac­ing the grow­ing walls around the ser­vice, one strug­gles to imag­ine them sur­viv­ing more than one or two iOS releas­es, but I’ve been wrong before. (In fact, I dis­cov­ered yes­ter­day that Look­book is still around some­how.) By the time iOS 7 came around, the new native Twit­ter app still looked fuck­ing ter­ri­ble. When Tap­bots released Tweet­bot 3, every­thing about its visu­al expe­ri­ence was beyond any­thing we’d seen on the iPhone before and its effec­tive­ness as a Twit­ter tool was imme­di­ate­ly rec­og­niz­able in con­trast with even Jack’s brand-new app and mobile web expe­ri­ence. The ani­ma­tions were taste­ful and smooth and the “pro user” label on Tapbot’s demo­graph­ic allowed them to ful­ly explore the func­tion­al­i­ty of iPhone’s ges­tures sep­a­rate any bond with the hypo­thet­i­cal­ly least-capa­ble user.

This is a dynam­ic which I am appar­ent­ly unable to avoid across just about all of my sub­jects — includ­ing dig­i­tal media — so you may take it as gen­er­al­ly unrea­son­able or extreme, but I’m near­ly as tired of being treat­ed as an idiot user as I am an idiot read­er. Read­abil­i­ty is to Usabil­i­ty, etc. It’s espe­cial­ly aggra­vat­ing when I could do so much more if devel­op­ers would just assume I’m capa­ble of any knowl­edge acqui­si­tion or intel­lec­tu­al growth what­so­ev­er. Except for a few left­over key­board short­cuts, the native Twit­ter app’s only func­tion are the most obvi­ous to engage with, as per the high­est pos­si­ble stan­dards of use, which would make per­fect sense if it was paired with com­pe­tent invest­ments in Acces­si­bil­i­ty, but Twit­ter always appears to detest the sub­ject, even while qui­et­ly putting in some of the work. Thanks to Mastodon’s explic­it and vis­i­ble acknowl­edge­ment of acces­si­bil­i­ty by way of just one young Ger­man man and a vol­un­teer team, we cer­tain­ly know it’s not because it’s an expen­sive one at all. (The “if Mastodon can do it than Twit­ter can def­i­nite­ly fuck­ing do it” argu­ment can be expand­ed almost with­out lim­it.)

Some­where out there is a social media man­ag­er using a screen read­er whose pro­fes­sion­al­ism has been under­mined by the belief that the update is avail­able to every­one. We deserve equal access to the tools our peers take for grant­ed, and the secu­ri­ty to know that we will be able to do our jobs tomor­row regard­less of updates.

-Kit Englard for The Out­line

I would like to com­mend myself now for mak­ing it this far with­out men­tion­ing Lists — a sub­ject which I’ve already Tweet­ed and writ­ten about exten­sive­ly — but this time, I have the won­drous bless­ing of two pre­miere mobile soft­ware com­pa­nies who rec­og­nized the poten­tial pow­er in list func­tion­al­i­ty to dis­pel or avoid most of the inher­ent risks assigned to the usage of a social net­work like Twit­ter and bet heav­i­ly on it. Nei­ther can be uti­lized to the fullest with­out lists and wouldn’t it be such a shame to not get your money’s worth? Tap­bots expand­ed their cura­tive abil­i­ty tremen­dous­ly by adding cus­tomiz­able fil­ters to any time­line in Tweet­bot, allow­ing the user to infi­nite­ly manip­u­late incom­ing posts with any com­bi­na­tion of every vari­able sup­port­ed by the core Twit­ter code itself. With­in a mat­ter of sec­onds, you could cre­ate a fil­ter that will exclude all Tweets except for those from unver­i­fied accounts that men­tion “blimps” and include a media attach­ment and apply this fil­ter to any of the app’s time­line views — includ­ing Home, Men­tions, Pro­file (your own Tweets,) your Favorites, and your Search­es — every­thing but your Direct Mes­sages can be sort­ed this way.

Tweet­bot for iOS Tips,” Tap­bots

Tweet­Bot and I accom­plished a lot of sort­ing togeth­er, and it wouldn’t have occurred to me had it not crept to #1 Paid Social App again a few weeks ago that per­haps my bias towards Twit­ter lists could be entire­ly attrib­uted to my ear­ly use of Tweet­Bot and Twit­ter­rif­ic, which allowed me to amass a Fol­low­ing count of over 5000 with­out phys­i­cal­ly per­ish­ing or men­tal­ly dis­in­te­grat­ing to the point of unde­ni­able insan­i­ty. How­ev­er, by the time Tweet­Bot 4 was released in 2015, it had long since swapped places with the native app with­in my iPhone’s home­screens and was only used when I felt par­tic­u­lar­ly like Tweet­storm­ing from a sta­tion­ary sit­u­a­tion. From my wire­less Apple Key­board, this meant Cmd (⌘)-N to com­pose a Tweet and ⌘-Enter to send it.

Today — in Tweet­bot 5 — this con­tin­ues to be a tried-and-true method of Tweet­ing Tweets on Twit­ter, smooth­ly and effi­cient­ly, as always. Return­ing to Ye Olde Alter­na­tive in 2018 yields both famil­iar and new­ly-imple­ment­ed goods: ani­ma­tion and audio noti­fi­ca­tions are car­ried over and/or updat­ed as need­ed to main­tain a flu­id and fresh expe­ri­ence. The abil­i­ty to switch between its intel­li­gent­ly-cho­sen col­or themes with a two-fin­gered ver­ti­cal swipe, alone will be jus­ti­fi­ca­tion enough for many users like myself to hand over anoth­er $4.99 to the Tap­bots devel­op­ers who’ve man­aged against all odds to one-up Twitter’s own mobile app devel­op­ment one last time. Over any oth­er alter­na­tive app, Tweet­bot 5 retains the robust qual­i­ties nec­es­sary to achieve #1 Paid Social App sta­tus on the App Store despite its new API shack­les.