Twitter causes controversy with API changes

Twitter is running the risk of angering its developer and user bases as changes to its Application Programming Interface (API) look set to restrict the creation of the third-party applications.

Michael Sippey, director of consumer product at Twitter, described the impending changes in a blog post yesterday, with the social network preparing to release version 1.1 of the Twitter API in the coming weeks.

Developers will be compromised most by the alterations, as apps will only be allowed to have a maximum of 100,000 users. Any app that wishes to exceed the new cap must now be granted the company’s permission, while apps that already have over 100,000 users are allowed to expand by 200 per cent until they too will require Twitter’s clearance to continue their growth.

The API restrictions also mean apps will have the number of authenticated requests limited to 60 calls per hour, even if it is accessing just one “API endpoint”. The figure comes crashing down from the current limit of 350 calls per hour.

Third-party services like Hootsuite and Tweetbot, which have thrived on the social network, may now become marginalised as the site tries to deliver “a consistent Twitter experience”.

Marco Arment, creator of the iOS app Instapaper, has attracted attention for his interpretation of the changes. Addressing the clampdown on third-party apps in his blog, Arment claims Twitter is effectively saying, “Once you get big enough for us to notice, we’re going to require you to adhere to more strict, unpublished rules to make sure you don’t compete with us or take too much value from our network.”

He adds, “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.”

In a verdict that may now ring true among Twitter's developer community, Arment concludes, “if I were in the Twitter-client business, I’d start working on another product.”