Everyone should be seriously concerned about Twitter’s API changes: here’s why

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Twitter recently announced changes to its API usage that has stalwart users, like yours truly, in a spin. The three biggest changes we’re going to see are:

Required authentication on every API endpoint: The current version of the API allows developers to access public information without having to authenticate. This means that any old bot can access the public information and that Twitter doesn’t actually know who is using and for what purpose.

Twitter argues that “to prevent malicious use of the Twitter API and gain an understanding of what types of applications are accessing the API in order to evolve it to meet the needs of developers, it’s important to have visibility into the activity on the Twitter API and the applications using the platform.” All of the apps currently using OAuth for Twitter access won’t be affected.

A new per-endpoint rate-limiting methodology: In the past, your twitter client could make up to 350 calls per hour, which could include fetching information like mentions and DMs. Says Twitter: “This “one size fits all” approach has limited our ability to provide developers more access to endpoints that are frequently requested by applications, while continuing to prevent abuse of Twitter’s resources.” What Twitter’s now going to do, is limit those calls to 60 per hour per application.

Changes to the Developer Rules of the Road, especially around applications that are traditional Twitter clients: This is the most telling change and has raised the ire of the online community especially as a lot of users use 3rd party clients to access Twitter:

In order to clarify their stance on the API changes, Twitter has released a four Quadrant diagram outlining the changes:

In the lower right quadrant, services like Klout which John Gruber describes as “utter vainglorious masturbatory nonsense” are favoured; whilst really good Twitter apps like Favstar and Storify are not. The upper right quadrant also includes traditional clients like Tweetbot, Echofon and my current favourite Destroy Twitter ver.2. Gruber nicely sizes up the irony when he mentions that the Twitter app was actually a third-party client which was acquired.

A couple of arguments against these changes include:

Twitter shouldn’t be limiting 3rd party clients: it should be innovating by itself. Said innovation will lead to third-party clients becoming obsolete merely by the fact that Twitter has accommodated the needs of the users. Giving twitter users the means to filter, engage with and enhance tweets should be the norm.

Twitter shouldn’t be limiting the API calls: instead it should supplement the increase in API calls with an open advert-tweet tap. The idea being that the more API calls are made, the more ads will be shown to accommodate those calls.

User actions speak louder than words, let’s hope Twitter notices this sooner rather than later.

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