For the last couple of years, I’ve been using the Facebook App called Twitter. It’s written and maintained by Twitter and its purpose is sync your Facebook status to your twitter feed. There’s a similar app for Myspace and other social networking sites. That means I post my status once to Twitter and it almost instantly updates my status on Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, and a dozen other sites, saving me a lot of time.
Sometime around May 11, the Facebook Twitter app stopped working. Or, at least, it stopped updating the Facebook status field. Instead all it does now is post your tweets to your wall. To most users, it appeared the Twitter app had simply stopped working since it was no longer performing its main function. This generated a lot of discussion in the Facebook Twitter App forum as more and more users reported the breakage:
By May 13 there was still no official response from Twitter on what was going on, so user tim.neumark filed a bug in the Twitter API database.
The next day Twitter API developer tokofu claimed Facebook had asked Twitter to make the change:
“We made a change to use a newer Facebook API to add content to the stream that no longer updates status. We think it provides a better experience based on what Facebook is asking developers to do.”
“You can always manage the settings Twitter has with Facebook through your Edit Applications tab.”
What’s meant by that last sentence is unclear as there is nothing in the indicated dialog that changes the behavior of the app in any way with regard to updating status.
Tokofu’s post was the nearest thing so far to an official statement on the breakage. This was followed by several days of people posting comments on the bug report noting that “better experience” is not how they’d describe a bug that breaks the app’s ability to perform its primary function. The flurry of comments prompted Twitter to close the bug report as “invalid” and users were asked to stop commenting.
Shortly afterwards on May 18, a new issue appeared on Twitter’s help pages in the “Known Issues” category: Twitter updates my Facebook wall but not my status
There was new spin on the story now. Instead of claiming it was an intentional change requested by Facebook to give the users a “better experience”, they seem to claim it was the unexpected result of moving to a new Facebook API (didn’t it occur to anyone to test it?!) They further claim Twitter is now “working with Facebook to see if there’s a way to push updates with the new API in a manner that updates both your wall and your status”. The issue has accumulated over 60 comments from users asking for the problem to be fixed, or for Twitter to revert to the older, working Twitter App until a fix is found for the new one.
After three weeks, neither Facebook nor Twitter appear to have made any progress on fixing the problem and most users of the Twitter app still have an empty status field. Oddly, third party Twitter apps such as Smart Twitter continue to work normally, so many users of the official Twitter app have switched.
Posts on the Facebook Twitter app discussion forum suggest that the move was an intentional effort by Facebook to cripple the Twitter app because Facebook viewed it as cutting down on the number of potential page hits for Facebook. By blocking remote status updates, Facebook could force users to log in and update their status manually, garnering more advertising views. It’s unclear (to me at least) whether there’s anything to this rumor or whether it’s pure speculation on the part of frustrated Twitter users. If it’s accurate, then I would expect Facebook to deprecate the old API that allows apps to update user status, disabling all the third party Twitter-to-Facebook apps as well. That hasn’t happened yet.
Given Facebook’s history of bad decisions and gaffes lately, I’m ready to believe anything.