Twitter and the App Update debacle.

I have a criticism of Apple's App Store, or at least the way some developers are using it. It's not a new criticism, but one that has been exemplified by the latest Twitter app update.

The Background

I'm a long-time Twitter user. I primarily access the service from my iPad, and my client of choice since its acquisition has been the official Twitter application. Before that, I used Tweetie, it's predecessor.

I know a lot of people didn't like the visually dense approach of this app, with overlapping sliding panels, but I did. I've tried the alternatives, but they have never matched up to my expectations.

The Problem

Overnight, Twitter's latest update to their app, Version 5.0, arrived on the Apple App Store. Wait, no, that is not the problem. The updated app has completely changed its iPad interface. The sliding panels are gone, replaced with single lists. The visual style and information density of the old app are gone.
It's a totally different app.

This is Twitter as it was yesterday:


And this is Twitter today: Tumblr_makfhcv1pa1r2r86o_medium

Here's how Rene Ritchie from describes this new Twitter app:

"To use Apple's term, this is the smartphone app stretched out to tablet size. It doesn't make use of the additional size of the iPad's screen. It just stretches and spaces to fill it."

It doesn't even have a search button on the side anymore!

That's still not the problem. I think it's great that there is a new Twitter client available. What's not so great is that this new app wants to replace my preferred Twitter client. The company have decided to push this totally different, feature-stripped app to users of its old app. To do this, they released it under the guise of an 'update'. It really isn't. It's a different app. A worse app.

This is an app that I don't want. But it is going to replace the one I do want unless I diligently download updates one-by-one, avoiding the update button beside the Twitter app for the rest of my days.

It's not the first time this has annoyed me. Several months back, Amazon replaced their Kindle App, shifting from an attractive in-book menu system to something that is, frankly, ugly. That time, I'd already pressed the "Update All" button before I realised what they'd done.

The Solution

It's simple. Developers should stop conflating app redesigns with app updates. Release a new app and call it 'Twitter 5' or 'Twitter 2012' and leave the old app alone. Or if it's a matter of brand identity, deprecate the old version to 'Twitter Classic', drop support for it, but keep it in the App Store for people who prefer it.

It doesn't look like this is going to happen any time soon, particularly when the developer might have an ulterior motive for pushing people onto their new app, such as making it less attractive in the hope that people will use their web-based, link-tracking service instead.

So I would like to see Apple implement a new rule for their App Store, one that disallows developers from pushing out feature-crippled new apps under the guise of 'updates', or at least forces them to make previous versions available.

Anybody else feel the same?

(Apologies for formatting issues, The Verge is giving me hell here!)