Twitter Provides More Information on API Direction — But Is It Enough?

By   /  August 20, 2012  /  No Comments

Last week we reported here on the progress that Nova Spivack’s #OccupyTwitter petition was making in terms of attracting signatures, and on the petition’s request that Twitter clarify just what its intentions for the developer community are around its API. Many semantic and sentiment analysis applications, of course, depend heavily on the Twitter API.

Well, the end of last week saw a blog post from Michael Sippey of Twitter that provided some more information on the API issue. He wrote:

“In the coming weeks we will release version 1.1 of the Twitter API. To help you plan ahead, we’re announcing these changes now, before the new version of the API is available. Changes will include:

  • required authentication on every API endpoint
  • a new per-endpoint rate-limiting methodology
  • changes to our Developer Rules of the Road, especially around applications that are traditional Twitter clients.”

The impact of the first is that developers who aren’t using OAuth when making API requests must begin doing so before March 2013. The second limits most individual API endpoints to 60 calls per hour per endpoint, but there will be a set of high-volume endpoints related to Tweet display, profile display, user lookup and user search where applications will be able to make up to 720 calls per hour per endpoint, he writes.

And, the Developer Rules of the Road changes display guidelines to display requirements, including for mobile apps, so that all applications that display Tweets will have to follow parameters including linking @usernames to the appropriate Twitter profile, displaying appropriate Tweet actions (e.g. Retweet, reply and favorite) and scaling display of Tweets appropriately based on the device. V. 1.1 also requires developers that are building client applications that are pre-installed on mobile handsets, SIM cards, chipsets or other consumer electronics devices to have their application certified by Twitter – and risk having their app keys revoked if they don’t get that certification. It also now requires developers to work directly with the company if their apps will need more than one million user tokens. Twitter says that will help it guide them toward areas of value for users and their businesses. It also notes that developers building a Twitter client application that is accessing the home timeline, account settings or direct messages API endpoints or are using its User Streams product will need its permission if the application will require more than 100,000 individual user tokens

Yesterday, Nova Spivack responded to these changes in his own blog post here – one of his points, in addition to his position that the “changes impose severe limitations on the use of Twitter’s APIs by third-party apps and sites” was that the announcement suffers from vagueness rather than offering the clarity the petition requested.

A quick summary of his post takes down the display requirements as impractical and even impossible to implement in practice. “Even ‘safe’ apps in the social analytics, social listening, enterprise tools areas would effectively have to either NOT include Tweets at all, or would have to have completely separate user interfaces just for Tweets,” he writes, noting that the same problem applies to content providers and news companies. Twitter, he says, has not been clear about whether they can they display Tweets with other forms of messages or not.

As to rate limits, he cautions that “it is important to note that unless and until there is more clarity on these questions and concerns it will be difficult for any company to feel (or be) safe integrating with Twitter’s APIs at all….I estimate the potential losses to companies in Twitter’s ecosystem from leaving these questions unanswered between now and March 2013 (when the new rules go into effect) to be from tens to hundreds of millions of lost revenues or exits collectively.”

He also includes a list of ten questions for the Twitter team to clarify ASAP. They range from high-level questions like why Twitter is keeping the APIs alive at all to how it can prove that developers can really feel confident integrating with or supporting its APIs to very practical ones, such as what will the notification process be for when an app reaches its user cap to what the exact API rate limits of all calls will be.

As of this AM the petition for Twitter to Keep Its Ecosystem Open had reached 861 supporters. Not everyone in the industry has the same concerns about the evolution of Twitter’s API, though. “We have a really positive working relationship with Twitter,” says Topsy chief revenue officer Eddie Smith. Topsy earlier this month released the Twitter Political Index (Twindex), which we covered here. “They own and run the ecosystem so they are making sure about how you play, that what you produce benefits Twitter and the ecosystem.”




About the author

Jennifer Zaino is a New York-based freelance writer specializing in business and technology journalism. She has been an executive editor at leading technology publications, including InformationWeek, where she spearheaded an award-winning news section, and Network Computing, where she helped develop online content strategies including review exclusives and analyst reports. Her freelance credentials include being a regular contributor of original content to The Semantic Web Blog; acting as a contributing writer to RFID Journal; and serving as executive editor at the Smart Architect Smart Enterprise Exchange group. Her work also has appeared in publications and on web sites including EdTech (K-12 and Higher Ed), Ingram Micro Channel Advisor, The CMO Site, and Federal Computer Week.

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