The End of the Third-Party Client

October 02, 2023
Table of Contents

The web has never been more advanced than today, but the web has also never been more centralized either. Big platforms have gotten an incredible amount of control over what kind of content the majority of internet users end up consuming every day.

Over the last year, various companies have been closing off their data silos, making the web harder to use for those who prefer alternative clients to access their favorite social networks.

For example, I really loved using Tweetbot and Apollo, and both of those apps are now gone because of API changes. Supposedly this is a response to LLMs and bots, or so the owners of said platforms say. I think it’s obviously more about profitability: monetization and ads.

I remember feeling the same way about YouTube, back in the day. There used to be third-party YouTube apps, and they were amazing. But at some point YouTube decided that these were no longer allowed, and from that point on you were forced to use the official Google app.1

Likewise, the same has now happened to Twitter (now called X) and Reddit, both of which have completely closed off access to third-party apps in any meaningful way.

For both of these sites, users actively voiced their displeasure at these upcoming changes (which happened very quickly). The shareholders who hold all the power shrugged off the complaints, and the changes happened regardless.

Promoted Posts

Tweetbot (for Twitter) and Apollo (for Reddit) were fantastic examples where these third-party apps were more useful and pleasant to use than the official offerings. With the death of these clients, my general user experience on these platforms has gotten markedly worse, in a myriad of ways.

I have also been exposed to so many more ads and promoted posts. Most notably, I’ve also been bombarded with all sorts of right-wing promoted posts on both X and reddit. Let me tell you: I am not a fan of right-wing folks, all right?

I understand that being a white guy in his late twenties/early thirties may be the target demographic (sadly), but I’ve been exposed to posts that make my mood (and day) actively worse.

Being exposed to bad ideas all the time is a problem. This is an algorithm and advertising problem: the ads are of low quality and the promoted posts are problematic. I try to report whatever I can, whenever I deem the content too offensive or inappropriate.

The worst part here is that there is no real effective replacement for either of these apps. Yes, I am on Mastodon, but there’s only a fraction of the people on there. Same applies to Lemmy, which is a reddit alternative.

Content Curation Required

There’s also huge apps like TikTok and Instagram which never had open alternatives. You’re just locked into their algorithms, which are shaped in part by the content you like to view or keep watching.

The experience here can be all right, but only if you actively curate your feed. The same applies to YouTube. In general, these site feel a little less hostile than Reddit or X at this time. (I am not on TikTok, though.)

You do need to be careful of what rabbit hole you go down with these apps, since they can be very addictive. I do think it’s high time that I start removing the apps that I dislike using from my life, or at the very least limit their usage.

I’ve fortunately already dodged TikTok and ditched Instagram years ago, but I’m scared that the complete removal of these apps (specifically Twitter and reddit) will turn me into even more of an uninformed person, and I don’t like the idea of that — since I do use those platforms for information gathering purposes and for the promotion of my own work.

Upcoming Mailing List

I hate what’s happening to two of my formerly favorite websites, and I may find myself ethically required to quit the platform(s). I know it means I’ll be missing out on a bunch of things, not to mention connections to many folks in the Laravel ecosystem and the developer community.2

To sidestep this issue, I may be setting up a mailing list sometime soon. I also want to do a little bit more curation on my website and start cross-posting useful content, and connect more with various folks. If I have any announcements to make in this regard, they will happen here, and on my social media accounts.

  1. Because of this, and because I want to be able to support the creators whose content I consume on a daily basis, I do pay for YouTube Premium. It makes the platform much more pleasant since at that point the platform is basically ad-free. 

  2. I may find myself reaching out to other developers and I am also considering if it’s worth attending various conferences around the world. I think it might be time. As far as my developer journey is concerned, there’s definitely cool things that I’m thinking about doing. More on that later in another blog post. 

Tagged as: Tech