Twittergate 2012: Users Freak Out Over Twitter’s New API Guidelines


I love Twitter. To death. I know a lot of people feel the same way. I guess that’s why Twitter lovers across the internets are in a tissy, freaking out after Twitter dropped a bomb on developers (and users) today when announcing their all new API guidelines. Why, you ask?

Well, let’s start with Twitter’s controversial move to limit the amount of users 3rd party Twitter apps can have before going official. That number: 100,000. With many popular Twitter apps in the Play Store garnering 500,000+ downloads, that doesn’t sound like much, does it? Let’s continue. Developers who currently serve over 100,000 users in their apps are allowed to grow their user base by another 200% before they’ll need to get permission from Twitter to continue. Also, 3rd party Twitter apps that come pre-installed on devices — like HTC’s Peep — will need to be green lit by Twitter before continuing.

Twitter also talked about limiting the amount of API calls apps can call before hitting their limit. Okay, that last part sounds scarier than it really is. Currently, Twitter lets you make 350 API calls an hour for doing Twitter-y stuff in your favorite Twitter apps like refreshing timelines, tweeting, retweeting, favoriting, sending DM’s and looking up hot girls’ profiles to find out if they’re a bot or not. This will soon change to — wait for it — 60. Hold on, hold on… Before you freak out, Twitter is really changing how they’re managing API calls. So, instead of grouping all API calls altogether, they will now be split up. That means you will no longer hit your Twitter limit if you’re overactive in one area like tweeting, only to be blocked from doing other things like retweeting. For example, users will now be given 60 tweets, 60 retweets, 60 DM’s, etc.. When it comes to things like looking up profiles, searching or clicking on detailed info on tweets, Twitter will set this limit to a generously high 720. Tweet too much? No problem, send DM’s to people or simply reply to your friends.

Twitter is also cracking the whip on the look of Twitter apps, shifting their design guidelines to actual requirements. If not adhered to, developers can be blocked from using Twitter’s API’s altogether. Again, this sounds scarier than it really is. Twitter is simply making sure 3rd party apps display tweets properly. Thing like “reply, retweet, and favorite” are now required to appear in a tweet, and it must be properly linked to the user who tweeted it. Sounds pretty damn fair to me.

You may have noticed an underlying them to Twitter’s new demands on devs. All the above changes are just Twitter making sure their service isn’t being abused by spammers and otherwise malicious apps trying to scam their users. Twitter has made a great social network (my personal favorite) and they want to make sure it stays that way. The other reality is that on the server side, API calls cost Twitter money and if you want to make sure Twitter stays around for a long time (I know I do), you’ll welcome these changes rather than run for your torch and pitchfork.


Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

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  1. Twitter pulling a Microsoft :)

  2. This is likely an attempt to try to stop companies who “sell” twitter followers:

    1. Nope, it’s an attempt to drive out third-party clients that compete with Twitter’s garbage apps. sippey says as much.

  3. Meh, I use the official twitter app on both my GNex and iPad 2

  4. Eh don’t care, the official app runs perfectly on my phone, in fact it’s the only one i’ve tried who’s “push notifications” actually work.

    1. Oddly enough, notifications from the official app stopped working for me within the last week or so. I’ve been using Tweetlanes lately. It’s a nice client. Still needs a few more features and I’ll drop the official app altogether.

      1. I keep the official around just for push notifications. Then I jump into one of the other 5 Twitter apps I have installed to view them. Haha

  5. Have a closer look at those Design Requirements, Chris. They’re significant. The way I read them, Tweet Lanes (my new client of choice) violates 1b, 2a, 3a, 3b, 5b, 6a, and 6b. It’s a bit confusing because Tweet Lanes doesn’t provide separate individual tweet and timeline views, which may itself be a violation, but I’m guessing they would at least apply all of the individual tweet rules to the timeline, except for ones that are directly contradicted by the timeline rules (like timestamps).

    If they actually enforce these rules, I think every single Twitter app will be affected. Even just including the standard Android share action quite clearly violates 3b. And even Twitter does that in their own app!

    1. I think Twitter’s new guidelines give them control to kill off every 3rd party app, but that’s not their intention. It’s to stop spam/scammers/and unauthorized API calls. It’s to keep Twitter alive, not to kill off their developer community.

      That being said, Chris Lacy — developer of Tweet Lanes — is optimistic as well. He welcomes the new guidelines and says he will do his best to become “official.”

      1. Sorry Chris, if you don’t think it’s not their intention to kill off 3rd party apps…then I don’t know what to say. I’mfar from a tin foil hat wearer, but twitter’s been very clear they don’t like and don’t want third party apps.

        “Nearly eighteen months ago, we gave developers guidance that they should not build client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience. And to reiterate what I wrote in my last post, that guidance continues to apply today.”

        Can’t get more obvious than that.

        1. There’s a lot of hypotheticals on what COULD happen and what Twitter MIGHT do. Even still, they’re still using their old “guidance” wording and not the new “requirement.”

          If Twitter does kill off 3rd party apps, I can tell you right now, there will be a Chick-fil-a sized boycott movement and I’ll lead the charge. Lol

          1. there’s a typo in your article. “theme” is missing the last “e”

      2. I fear that Chris and you are both being overly generous in your interpretation of Twitter’s words. They have explicitly laid out Design Requirements that he violates at least 7 times (all with good reason, I would say!) and warned that they may start enforcing them at any time.

        They have explicitly offered guidance (twice now) that developers “should not build client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience.”

        Sure, there are weasel words that you could pin your hope on, but if I were a developer, I wouldn’t be comforted. Chris is putting a ton of work into his app, and it’s pretty clear that Twitter doesn’t approve of what he’s doing. They’ve warned him that, at any point, they could act on that and shut him down. Plus, they’ve placed a ridiculous limit on his ability to succeed. 100,000 users, when Google is activating a million Android devices every day?!

        Honestly, I don’t know how he’s able to keep going, though I’m thankful that he is.

        1. 100,000 users before becoming “official” after which case, you’re right – Twitter could shut him down. Or they’ll let him keep going.

          If Twitter REALLY uses their new guidelines to kill 3rd party apps like Tweet Lanes, there will be hell to pay. Until then, this sounds like Twitter protecting their business interests by giving themselves even more power. Scary, yes. But too early to cry foul play.

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