I’m not really surprised. In fact, I’m surprised it took this long.
Back when Elon bought Twitter, one of the first things I did was to start using the official iOS Twitter app. I kept Tweetbot on my phone, but I used Twitter instead full-time because my assumption was that at some point third-party apps were going to be banned.
My use of the official Twitter app was fairly short-lived. The app sucks, to be quite frank. The algorithmic timeline is completely terrible and the injection of ads and sponsored tweets made it even worse. Even the act of composing a tweet was subpar.
I had been a Tweetbot user for the better part of a decade. To me, Tweetbot was Twitter. The chronological timeline, free of ads, and consisting entirely of the tweets and retweets of the people I followed and nothing else, was the epitome of the Twitter experience.
But good old Elon has decided that Tweetbot and all the rest of the third-party apps must go! Perhaps he’s jealous of the higher quality of Tweetbot, Twitterrific and others. Whatever the case, Tweetbot is cut off at the API and dead. RIP.
Fortunately, I stopped using Tweetbot months ago when I deactivated my Twitter account in favour of Mastodon. I was lucky that I had started following Paul and Mark from Tapbots on Mastodon mostly so I could stay up-to-date on the happenings with Twitter and Tweetbot.
I figured the first place that I would learn about the death of third-party apps at the hand of Elon would be from the Tweetbot people. The fact they had gone to the trouble of setting up a Mastodon instance for Tapbots was a very good sign that something was brewing.
More fortunately, I was able to get one of the few TestFlight slots on the very first day that their new app, Ivory for Mastodon, was revealed. It felt instantly like home. It was Tweetbot-like, but still true to Mastodon - familiar, but different and not at all in an uncanny-valley way.
Ivory is wildly good. Along with the recent influx of the tech community into Mastodon, the existence of Ivory has made the transition from Twitter to Mastodon quite easy.
You Waited Too Long, Elon
I shudder to think of what things would be like if Mastodon wasn’t a thing and if new apps like Ivory weren’t around. Quitting Twitter was made far more palatable because there was a viable alternative.
Perhaps the biggest mistake that Elon made was waiting too long to kill off the third-party apps. By the time he pulled the trigger last week, we all knew Ivory was on the way and the momentum was quickly building on Mastodon.
Back in Time
In many ways it feels like we’ve been transported back in time about 10 or 12 years to when Twitter was new and the web was still a place where we all built our own sites and blogs. Mastodon has rekindled that sense in a lot of people of late. We watched as wall-gardens were built up and destroyed the indie web that we all loved.
But now we have a chance to do it all over again and do it right. Mastodon is like Twitter, but built on open standards and federated. People are thinking about blogging again and bringing back their sites on their own domain names.
I’m starting to really question whether the remaining walled gardens are something I’m willing to continue to contribute my content and attention to. I’ve all but quit Instagram and haven’t used Facebook in years and years. I don’t have a TikTok and don’t plan to get one anytime soon.
Maybe the best thing to come out of Elon buying Twitter is that those of us who adopted Twitter back in the early days will be reminded of what we loved about the web back then. Will Elon kill Twitter completely? Probably not. But does it really matter anymore?
He’s already done enough to drive the nerds and internet junkies over to Mastodon. The indie devs are excitedly building apps that leverage open APIs and can’t be shut down by one stupid childish man. It’s the return of the internet we all knew and loved.
And for that, I say “thank you” to Elon. You deserve none of the credit for your own ineptitude, but the internet thanks you anyway.