Twitter Gets Strict with Official API v1.1 Release

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Twitter has officially released version 1.1 of its API. Initially announced in August, the updated API has stricter authentication policies and developer rules of the road, among other new features.

Twitter Toughens Up

In version 1.1, Twitter is requiring applications to authenticate all of their requests with the API. Twitter says this step will prevent abusive behavior and help it to further understand how categories of applications are using the API so it can better meet the needs of developers.

At this time, all authentication requires user context, but in the coming weeks Twitter says it will release support for a form of authentication not requiring a user context.

Twitter also updated its developer rules of the road, placing regulations against activities such as publishing private user information, resyndicating data and performing “surprise” actions not initiated by users. And all applications replicating the core Twitter experience, usually called "clients," will have some new restrictions placed on them, including a 100,000 user token limit.

There are also new display requirements (which were previously suggested guidelines), dictating things like display of the tweet author avatar and how text is displayed. Other changes include support for JSON only, discontinuing support for XML, Atom and RSS, which Twitter says are “infrequently” used.

Rate limits in version 1.1 of the API are divided into 15 minute intervals, which is a change from the 60 minute blocks in version 1.0. Additionally, all 1.1 endpoints require authentication, so no longer will there be a concept of unauthenticated calls and rate limits. Search will be rate limited at 180 queries per 15 minute window for the time being, but Twitter says it may adjust that over time. According to Twitter, developers will “now be able to query the API on a per endpoint basis a lot more than (they) previously could.” 

Learning Opportunities

Show Me the Money

Although Twitter is stressing that the new changes will help eliminate abuses and make Twitter app development a more structured and orderly process, not all observers are convinced its motives are entirely pure. Last month, CMSWire columnist Stephen Fishman wrote that,

Twitter really does not care whether (solo developers) make money. Twitter cares whether Twitter makes money. In order for Twitter to make money, Twitter needs consumers to engage with Twitter on the Twitter site as much as possible. Twitter's value prop to developers is a free, functional and highly available micro-bloging platform that can easily be integrated into your site.”

Fishman also said the new API is directly aimed at “data scrapers” whose primary goal is to extract Twitter data for their own benefit.

Resyndication Rules Could Cause Problems

According to Mashabale Tech, new restrictions on resyndicating data appear to mean that information contained within a tweet -- such as a URL -- cannot be sent to another service using a third-party client. Mashable says this “could be problematic for social news aggregators such as paper.li, Postano and RebelMouse” and “have a much larger impact on the entire Twitter ecosystem,” including mainstream applications as well as third-party developers and power users.

Ultimately, Twitter is probably in a position to enact whatever API rules it likes and ride out any developer backlash. As Fishman states in his article, “If (Twitter’s value proposition) is not good enough, build and market your own platform and see how much money that makes you.”