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For around 36 hours or so, virtually all major third party Twitter apps have been locked out of the service and there’s no sign of why, or whether they will regain access any time soon or ever.

The issues began on Friday morning in Australia, with most third party apps showing an unusual authentication error. Users of Tapbots’ Tweetbot, for example, are greeted with am message saying “Unable to access account @yournamehere. There was a problem authenticating with Twitter. You must sign in again to access this account”. However, when attempting to do so, the app fails and says it cannot contact Twitter, and so the timelines remain frozen where they were.

The silence from Twitter HQ has been deafening; Tapbots founder Paul Haddad has taken to Mastodon – given he can’t update his customers on Twitter – to remark that there is “still no official or unofficial information from inside Twitter”. The assumption – by many others as well – is that this move by Twitter is deliberate.

There has been no information at all from Twitter, via its official support channels, or even anything from Elon Musk himself. Given that Musk has sacked most of Twitter’s staff, it’s not as if there’s really anyone to approach for information, either.

If deliberate, it’s not really a surprising move for Twitter to have taken. Third party apps don’t display Twitter’s ads, algorithmic timeline or any of the added-on stuff which many third party apps users are deliberately trying to avoid. Given that Twitter needs to start making money and quite a lot of it, switching off popular third party apps and (hopefully) driving users to Twitter’s own app, which is full of ads and other money-making hair-brained ideas, makes some sense.

If unintentional, then it’s perhaps even more unusual given that it’s such a significant part of the Twitter ecosystem which has been left broken for such an extended period. One wonders if something’s failed and there’s perhaps not anyone at Twitter who immediately knows how to fix it.

Either way, users are responding – elsewhere, of course – but noting their plans to leave the platform are accelerating. Developers, too, are accelerating their efforts to develop similar clients for popular micro-blogging network Mastodon. Tapbots for example is working on a client named Ivory which will bring its considerable Twitter client prowess to the Mastodon sphere, and others are doing likewise. It’s expected to be released by month’s end, as will many others.

There are, of course, already many quality Mastodon clients available on Android and iOS, but some of them are a little stale and some new development to spice things up is always welcome.

Time will tell whether this is just an unintentional crash somewhere or a deliberate move by Twitter, noting that some less-popular apps do still seem to be working, but larger ones – i.e. those with the most un-monetised users – have been shut out. One can’t help draw the conclusion that it’s a deliberate step, and one that mightn’t soon be reversed.