Trying the Official Twitter App

(This post is an adaptation of a Twitter thread I wrote on the subject last night.)

A few days ago I decided to try out the official Twitter app for macOS and iOS. Twitter has been slowly cutting back support for third party apps, so I was curious whether their app was any better than what I’m currently using.

For me, the answer is… a little yes, a lot of no.

For a while Twitter had dropped their macOS app entirely, but the Mac Catalyst technology prompted them to port their iOS app to the Mac. I probably wouldn’t have tried this experiment otherwise.

My current Twitter client on both platforms is Tweetbot, which is great, and would probably be even more great if Twitter weren’t slowly crippling it by cutting back on what third party clients can do with their APIs.

Here’s what I thought of the official clients, across both platforms:

The Good

  • Being able to see the count of responses and likes to a tweet (the “ratio”) is nice. Tweetbot shows like count but not retweet count, presumably because Twitter’s API doesn’t provide it.
  • Being able to see polls inline is very nice. I often see tweets where someone asks a question and I just respond, and sometime later realize it’s a poll.

    I believe Tweetbot can’t show polls due to Twitter’s API deficiency. I always have to open a poll in a browser to vote.
  • Pinned lists are very nice, probably the one feature I don’t think Tweetbot really has which I wasn’t expecting and immediately found useful.
  • The bookmarks system looks nice, but I haven’t really used it. I had no idea it exists. Presumably because Twitter’s API doesn’t vend it for third-party clients.

The Odd

  • The iOS client has a sidebar which is just the search field and “what’s happening”. Not very useful. I miss the responses sidebar from Tweetbot.(Which used to also show most notifications until Twitter’s API dropped support for that.)

    So I mostly hid the search bar in my trial. Which was weird because then the timeline doesn’t get any wider, it’s the same width with a whole bunch of whitespace on either side, and no way to adjust it. Seems like poor design.
  • Tweetbot has a nifty muting system where you can choose where people are muted (everywhere, only in lists, etc.). I use this a lot to manage my lists, following people and then muting them in my timeline but not elsewhere. I was concerned the Twitter wouldn’t give me that control, but muting only mutes from the main timeline, so it’s fine, but took some trial and error to figure out. I’m not sure whether more fine-grained control here is something I’d need.
  • It’s annoying that I can’t (AFAICT) mute individual accounts for limited periods of time like in Tweetbot – that functionality only seems to be available for keywords. I use this a fair bit (e.g., if someone is going on about some subject I don’t care about in volume I’ll mute them for a day), so I would probably miss it at some points.
  • Tweetbot seems to have its own separate mute list data, so I had to go through and re-mute dozens of people. I don’t know whether this is because of Tweetbot’s richer muting system, or a deficiency in Twitter’s API. But it was annoying.

The Bad

  • The client doesn’t show me the number of unread tweets for my main timeline or whatever list I’m viewing. I missed this a lot.
  • The client doesn’t keep my reading spot in lists. So at some point when I open a list it will scroll me to the top, no matter how many tweets in the list I haven’t read yet. This is extremely annoying and on its own almost enough to send me back to Tweetbot.
  • It seems my reading spot in lists and the main timeline are not synced among my various devices. This is also extremely annoying, as scrolling down to find where I’d last been reading is not really feasible.
  • Sometimes when I come back to Twitter after a while away (such as overnight), the client shows a “Show more tweets” prompt above my last spot in my timeline, but clicking it almost always shows me the newest tweet in the gap, not the oldest, so I have to scroll back down to get to where I was.
  • The threading in the client is nice in some scenarios, but pretty annoying when scrolling upwards, to see the most recent tweets in a thread first (i.e., at the bottom). This seems like a poorly-thought-out user experience. It would make sense if one scrolled down to get to the latest items in one’s timeline (which, TBH, is kind of what I want anyway, but they’re never going to do that).
  • The notification system is pretty annoying, as it supplies a lot of customizability but most of it I don’t want. I pretty quickly figured it would just be easier to deny it notification privileges at the system level. This needs some user-quality-of-life evaluation to simplify these settings, probably cutting about 75% of them.
  • Holy cow there are a lot of ads, excuse me, “sponsored tweets”. I felt like I saw 2x-5x more ads on Twitter than on Facebook. Tweetbot shows me none of this nonsense (which is presumably why Twitter doesn’t want you using third-party clients).

    Ads might be more bearable if I could assign them a different background color or something.
  • There’s no way in the app that I can find to set a show/hide keyboard shortcut on macOS, which I use all the time in Tweetbot. Maybe I could do it through a macOS system pref, though I did a short search and couldn’t figure it out. It would be a much more useful app pref than all the notification stuff.

I could probably live with a lot of the Twitter app deficiencies if it remembered my reading spot in all lists and synced across devices. But overall it needs a lot of polish, so I’m likely heading back to Tweetbot.

I’m not sorry I tried it out, but I am kind of surprised that the app – on both macOS and iOS – feels like it has a lot of maturing to do.