Twitter’s Recent API Changes and How It Affects Your Business

21 September 2012
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Twitter has made indefinite changes to the way third-party apps use Twitter’s application interface (API). Although warning went out this summer that the change was coming, no one expected it to be this drastic. How drastic the changes are and how these changes will affect your business depends on several aspects, which I’ll outline here.

Say it isn’t so. Sorry, but it is. Twitter has made indefinite changes to the way third-party apps use Twitter’s application interface (API). Although warning went out this summer that the change was coming, no one expected it to be this drastic. How drastic the changes are and how these changes will affect your business depends on several aspects, which I’ll outline here.

What did Twitter Change?

In efforts to strengthen their business model, Twitter implemented some pretty controversial changes to the way people are able to access the API from third-party apps such as Seemic, UberSocial, and Hootsuit. So let’s take a closer look at the changes:

  • Refreshing the Twitter Stream – When third-party apps refresh on Twitter it runs up against Twitter’s rate limit. The rate limit is the amount of times Twitter allows data to be obtained from its site. Having a number programed to the rate limit restricted the number of times the stream could be refreshed as well as how many times a person could send messages, update their profile or send tweets. The rate was 350 times per hour. However, after the change took place this rate limit was changed to 60 times per hour for each task and 720 times per hour for popular data such as tweets.
  • User limit on Twitter client software – A 100,000 user limit is now in place on Twitter’s software. Before the latest change to Twitter’s API Twitter clients had no limit.

Do Use Twitter for Your Business?

If so, you may be affected. How so? The 100,000 user limit means that if you sign up to Twitter clients you can never have more than 100,000 users. Ever (well unless Twitter gives you special permission, which is a rarity). Third-party Twitter apps that currently have millions of users will definitely be affected, unless they are given special permission to expand their user limit. Some third-party apps such as Tweetcaster would have a cap at 200 percent or double their user base, which would seriously affect their growth.

Twitter does plan to make a few more tweaks to its API soon that will affect:

  • Twitter authentication by applications
  • Rate limits on third-party Twitter clients
  • Potential freeze on third-party clients

These changes could cause a lot of app developers to not include features that use data on Twitter.The only way that app developers will benefit from the changes is if they put their noggins together to create new apps that use less data from Twitter.