Twitter API changes go down badly with developers

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Twitter's made changes to its API, restricting the creation of large-scale third party applications - and developers aren't at all happy about it.

The company's releasing version 1.1 of the Twitter API, incorporating new authentication requirements and limiting the number of users to 100,000, unless Twitter specifically authorizes more.

"Currently, in v1.0 of the Twitter API we allow developers access to certain API endpoints without requiring their applications to authenticate, essentially enabling them to access public information from the Twitter API without us knowing who they are. For example, there are many applications that are pulling data from the Twitter API at very high rates (scraping, bots, etc.) where we only know the IP address of the applications," says director of consumer products Michael Sippey.

"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."

The company's also placing restrictions on the number of user tokens a developer can have, limiting them to 100,000 where client applications are accessing the home timeline, account settings or direct messages API endpoints, or using Twitter's User Streams product.

It says it won't shut down apps that are already over the limit, but will only allow them to double their current user token count.

The changes won't have any direct effect on users - but are angering developers.

"Twitter has left themselves a lot of wiggle-room with the rules. Effectively, Twitter can decide your app is breaking a (potentially vague) rule at any time, or they can add a new rule that your app inadvertently breaks, and revoke your API access at any time," says Marco Arment, developer of Instapaper.

"Of course, they’ve always had this power. But now we know that they’ll use it in ways that we really don’t agree with."