If you’re one of the users who got banned, hopefully temporarily, from WhatsApp by using a third party app, or if you’re a developer of one of those said third-party apps, hopefully you haven’t been holding your breath for a change in the situation. At Facebook‘s F8 conference, a panel was held that included top brass from social networking bigshots. Among them was WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton. When asked whether the service has plans to release any API for third-party developers, Acton plainly but respectfully shot down the idea. A rather bold statement, considering it was, after all, a developers conference.
It’s not exactly surprising that WhatsApp has an ill-favored view of third-party apps. It has been increasing its efforts to crack down on the use of third part WhatsApp clients, going as far as banning such users, at least for 24 hours according to WhatsApp. If anything, this just puts a nail in the coffin of any hope that the messaging service would, at least in the near future, eventually release some API that developers can use to adopt WhatsApp into their own contexts and situations. This is almost in stark contrast to its parent company Facebook, who has at least some API hooks, though sometimes limited.
WhatsApp definitely isn’t the only keeping its door closed, but it is certainly the most high profile one of late. Other social networks do have APIs, but in practice, most of them would prefer their own official clients and take different tactics to convince users to do so. Instagram, for example, doesn’t have any API for posting photos to the service, making third party apps basically like Instagram browsers. And while Twitter does have a more encompassing API set, it severely gimps developers access, primarily through tokens and throttling, that most users might eventually prefer the official client, despite some of its own limitations.
To some extent, perhaps it is good that WhatsApp keeps things under its direct and full control, considering the service has a rather negative reputation when it comes to security and privacy, concerns that came to a head when it was acquired by Facebook. By not opening its doors to third parties, WhatsApp will be able to minimize the entry points for failure. Then again, it also makes them all the more culpable when, not if, things go wrong. And surely, there will be a bit of a backlash from developers, but end users will honestly just carry on as normal, especially considering the virtual lock in any social networking service has. After all, it’s never easy to switch services if your contacts are mostly in one spot.