How will Twitter’s API Update affect third-party applications?

Twitter, the micro-blogging site with a 140 character limit has very cool APIs, or application programming interface that allows software to interact with each other. Last week Twitter announced that apart from requiring authentication for access to API, there will be a 350-calls-per-hour limit on requests that applications can make and changes for developers to consider as well.

The announcement has left a lot of people jittery and tied down. Apart from timelines looking remarkably alike for all users, the more worrying aspect is Twitter requiring developers to work with the company, especially if the developer feels his app could get more than a million users. This means that if you have created a really popular app, you will need Twitter’s permission to add more users after you’ve reached a certain amount.

Twitter has, for a long time, been talking about creating a consistent experience and seems to want to weed away bad apps or inefficient ones. It wants consistency in appearance too, insisting on its bird logo to be displayed the right way and the app icon or user icon to appear in a common format, applicable to all users.

But it is not willing to let the good apps do their job, insisting instead on its own share of the pie. If you really think about it, a lot of the third-part applications are actually competition to Twitter and the microblogging site is anxious that its users move away from rehashed versions of its site to focus on tools for analysis and systems to influence social behaviour.

A huge player like the venerableTwitterrific has already announced plans to comply with the new norms, claiming that it is still on the path it had set out for itself before the announcement. An old timer that has been with Twitter from its initial days, Twitterrific is responsible for creating Twitter’s first iPhone and Mac client, the first to use Ollie- the bird, that is, and the first to use the word Tweet to refer to the updates on the micro blogging site.

So in terms of affecting third party apps, perhaps the story is not so scary. It is not unfair for a site to want its own business to benefit and seeing how Twitter relies heavily on ads and outside help for revenue, this move is not too surprising. Twitter is also ensuring that people see information only when the site wants them too. That means a reliance on Twitter Cards, updates with embedded data. All this is an attempt to gain control over a rather democratic site where developers have enjoyed much freedom.

If you were to consider Twitter’s history, you’d see that a lot of it is closely linked to third-party apps so it would be absurd for Twitter to jeopardize its relationship with such developers. But perhaps the idea of clipped wings is making many a developer wary and uncomfortable, as seen from the angry backlash against Twitter. The biggest bone of contention is the cap on users and many developers are probably considering taking their apps elsewhere. The next few weeks ought to be interesting as we see how this battle will pan out.

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Tagged as: API, Application, Twitter, Update