New API severely restricts third-party Twitter applications

Twitter logoTwitter has officially announced the changes coming to version 1.1 of its API, and the news is mostly bad. While some new rules are ostensibly aimed at reducing the number of bots and spam accounts on the service, they also severely restrict how much and how often third-party Twitter clients and other services can access Twitter's information.

Among the most damaging of these new changes for third-party developers is the evolution of Twitter's Display Guidelines into Display Requirements. Developers are currently allowed some leeway in how they present Tweets, but the new requirements will enforce a number of design decisions that may make it more difficult for third-party clients to differentiate themselves from both the official Twitter clients and one another. Twitter also continues to discourage (though not prohibit) developers from creating applications that "mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience." The company even went so far as to call out Tweetbot and Echofon, two major third-party clients, as applications that developers shouldn't be making.

Even worse, Twitter will now require any third-party Twitter application preinstalled on a device to be "certified" by Twitter. The post doesn't go into detail about what exactly that process will entail, but anyone who ships a third-party Twitter application without first getting it certified risks having their application key revoked. Applications that serve a large number of users—more than 100,000 for new applications, and twice their current user count for existing applications—will now need to ask Twitter for its blessing to continue adding new users.

The other changes aren't as disruptive to third-party clients, but have deeper implications for services that pull data from Twitter. As of API 1.1, every application or service that wants access to Twitter data must authenticate via OAuth. This change shouldn't affect standard Twitter clients that are already authenticating with OAuth, but it does have implications for applications and services that scrape data from Twitter en masse without requiring authentication to the service. This change will be enforced for all existing applications beginning in March of 2013.

Not only does the new API require authentication, but it also implements new limits on how often applications can make calls with the API. Previously, applications could make up to 350 calls per hour no matter what information the application was requesting; the new API limits that to 60 calls per hour per endpoint, with exceptions for some high-volume endpoints able to make up to 720 calls per hour.

With the exception of the authentication requirement, we don't know when the rest of the changes introduced in API 1.1 will be introduced and enforced. While these moves aren't entirely unexpected—Twitter last warned developers about the changes in late June—it's disappointing to see Twitter turning its back on the development community that played such a large role in its early and continued expansion. New contenders like the recently crowdfunded have plenty of their own problems, but it's telling that the people who helped to build Twitter into what it is today are beginning to look for the exit.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Twitter

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