Twitter announced this week changes to its API that will limit the number of times a third-party client can access Twitter (see Mashable article Twitter’s API Update Cuts Off Oxygen to Third-Party Clients to learn more).
While this news has some developers scrambling (or seething, depending on who you talk to), what exactly does this mean for the general Twitter populace? For starters, it could change how you tweet.
API or ‘application programming interface’ is basically the gateway to Twitter for other apps. There are limits on how many times an app may contact Twitter, and this week Twitter restricted those limits even more. According to Twitter, these changes are intended to “deliver a consistent Twitter experience” for users. Twitter is trying to encourage the development of apps that help with things such as analytics and influence rankings, and discourage use of apps for aggregating tweets or apps that people would use as a Twitter client instead of using Twitter itself. This makes sense for Twitter: they want people to use their client and see their ads and promotions, not someone else’s.
However, many third-party clients are popular not just in day-to-day use, but for communicating more easily during Twitter chats and Twitter parties. Applications such as Hootsuite, Tweet Chat and Tweet Grid are used by thousands every day to attend chats. At the start of nearly every Twitter party we host, we tweet out a “custom link” for people to more easily attend a party via TweetGrid. As of right now, attending a Twitter chat strictly on Twitter without the help of a third-party client is not an option many users want to take.
This isn’t to say that all chat apps are immediately being put out of business or that the chat apps we mentioned above are done for; however, they might be limited on how much they can grow, the maximum number of users they can have, and how many tweets they can access per hour. So it is possible some of our favorites will be affected and we might have to get used to the idea of attending a chat in a different way. Twitter says they will work with some developers who have reached their limits to gain more access than what is allowed. But how many apps and which ones will get special treatment are still for the most part unknown (though tweet collector Storify was mentioned by Twitter as being an app that exemplifies the types of Twitter apps developers should be creating.) This could lead to serious issues for Twitter chats and Twitter parties as the events grow in popularity. Many of these apps are free to use, and exist with the hope of generating ad revenues to fund themselves. This clashes with Twitter’s goal of generating ad revenue, and could be a reason why these limits now exist: to turn eyes away from apps and back to Twitter where their clients’ ads are running.
On the bright side (if you can call it that), Twitter-owned aggregator Tweet Deck most likely will not be compromised. It works in the same way as many of the third-party aggregators and since it has the Twitter stamp of approval, we can only guess that it would not be subject to strict API limitations. In the future, we might be instructing Twitter party and chat attendees on how to use it for a better chat experience. Or much to the disappointment of developers and Twitter users alike—the only option for a better chat experience.