Twitter Announces Retweet API

Andres Ferrate
Aug. 13 2009, 07:40PM EDT

Popular micro-blogging platform Twitter has announced "Project Retweet", which will soon add a new "retweet" feature to the core service and will have a new retweet API giving developers to access retweets in a variety of ways. As many of you know, the Twitter API (our Twitter API Profile) has quickly become one of the most popular APIs in our API Directory.

Twitter's Marcel Molina made the announcement in the Twitter API Google Group. According to Marcel:

Retweeting has become one of the cultural conventions of the Twitter
experience. It's yet another example of Twitter's users discovering
innovative ways to use the service. We dig it. So soon it's going to
become a natively supported feature on twitter.com. It's looking like
we're only weeks away from being ready to launch it on our end. We
wanted to show the community of platform developers the API we've
cooked up for retweeting so those who want to support it in their
applications would have enough time to have it ready by launch day. We
were planning on exposing a way for developers to create a retweet,
recognize retweets in your timeline and display them distinctively
amongst other tweets. We've also got APIs for several retweet
timelines: retweets you've created, retweets the users you're
following have created, and your tweets that have been retweeted by
others.

The API documentation is already available, although developers should note that making requests to the API will not work just yet as the feature has not been activated. Along with the API announcement, the Twitter team has made available a few draft mockups of how retweets might appear in a user's timeline.

Retweets

Per the announcement, there are few things to note about retweets and the API:

1) It was important for us that retweets are easily differentiated visually from regular tweets. If someone you follow retweets a tweet, the original tweet will appear in your timeline whether you follow the author of the original tweet or not, just as it currently does when users use the "RT" convention. Seeing a tweet in your timeline from someone you don't follow without being told it was shared from someone you *do* follow could be confusing. So we're encouraging developers to be mindful of this confusion and make retweets stand out visually from regular tweets.

2) The retweeted tweet shows the username of the first of your followers to retweet it. If other's subsequently retweet the same
tweet, the retweet should only appear once in a user's timeline

This is some great news for users that have grown accustomed to retweeting as part of the overall microblogging experience, and the addition of the API is sure to make the new feature an integral part of applications and mashups that leverage the Twitter API. Check out Techmeme, CNet, TechCrunch, and Mashable for additional coverage of the news.

Andres Ferrate

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Wonder if the API will make it easy to see if a retweet is from a current non-follower? That's useful information for a lot of people in social media, because it identifies someone who's interested in your feed but not really in the fold yet.