Twitter is Changing its API

Twitter API v1.1, decreasing the openness of the API and increasing the stability of the platform.

Twitter is set to change their API depreciating the current version (API V1), By March 2013 developers will be forced to switch to version 1.1, which includes many changes meant to improve the service they are providing, and by improve they actually mean making it easier/cheaper for them to provide the service, forcing new customers into paying for the fire hose access, and blocking none Twitter approved clients (tweet-bot and echo-phone).

In API V1.0 developers were able to access the twitter public timeline without authentication, Twitter throttled requests per IP address. Applications didn’t require to authenticate in order to query the public timeline, If the application uses oAuth to authenticate 350 API calls is allowed every 1 hour, these API calls can be consumed in whichever way the developers sees fit. API V1.1 is changing all of that, now instead of leaving the applications client to the users discretion a higher level of control is applied. Instead of the 350 calls per hour, Authenticated accounts get 60 calls per service per hour (as in the application can issue 60 follow requests, 60 searches, 60 replies and so on), None authenticated access is blocked all together thus soon making anonymous searches a piece of history. Regardless to how the application uses Twitter re-coding is required.

Usually new Versions have a certain level of backwards compatibility, allowing old apps to function even after the decommissioning of the old one. This one doesn’t, which means that every single Twitter based application needs to be updated and tested, a phenomenal task that would amount into hundreds of thousands of working hours.

They are trying to eliminate the upper right quadrant, While trying to get a bigger cut of the profit generated by the lower left one.

 

Personally I believe Twitter is aiming for two things with this update. Eliminating none Twitter approved clients (as they’d be useless with the new throttling rules), thus nudging people towards using their sanctioned apps. The second would be shutting down social analytics apps that rely on public timeline, most probably Twitter has been watching the boom in social analytics market and now they want a piece of the action. With the new API Social Analytics would be almost impossible without firehose access, given the level of control they exert on the customer they grant firehose access, Twitter will be in control of any company planning to do any kind of Twitter Analysis.

Incidentally did you know that SalesForce (Oracles CRM Rival) purchased the twitter management/analysis cloud service Radian6 for $326 Million, a substantial amount for a young company that completely relies on Twitter for its services.

Twitter’s real value, its only value really is its users. Many of them may have been drawn into using it by the various apps integrated with it, the initial openness of the platform created a healthy environment for developers to build anything they wanted to. Back when twitter was a startup no one cared about Hackers and Moders used to it to have their scripts or even devices publish things to the internet. Twitter’s main appeal to developers was and still remains the open/stable API, allowing them to build new innovative apps that in turn attracted normal users. How will the new API impact this intricate relationship we’ll have to wait till March 2013 to know.

As a Twitter applications developer I know I have to spend at least 16 hours updating and testing my app with no visible added features or even improved performance, personally I’m not happy about this update as it’ll only serve to limit the applications I can build.

Update
Twitter introduced a profile cover similar to the one that Facebook has. The target apparently is allowing companies better more graphical profile Page that can be used to showcase their products. And then a new version of Twitter client was released that incorporates that. No wonder they are trying to eliminate competing twitter clients, they need to control the consistency of how profiles appear on various channels in order to be able to sign up more paying customers.

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