The Twitter API: Still an Open Platform?

There's been a lot of buzz lately about Twitter's intentions regarding the very popular and widely used Twitter API. The buzz started with what some developers consider an "ominous" post from Twitter published on June 29, 2012 discussing the necessity of a "consistent Twitter experience."

The buzz got louder when LinkedIn announced in a post that same day that "Tweets will no longer be displayed on LinkedIn." It appears that Twitter intends on enforcing greater restrictions on developers using the Twitter API in their web and mobile applications.

Twitter stated in their post that "we've already begun to more thoroughly enforce our Developer Rules of the Road with partners" and that "we will be introducing stricter guidelines around how the Twitter API is used." Twitter has been slowly restricting access to the Twitter API for the past several years through rate limiting (a limit on the number of API calls an application can request per hour) and specific data limitations like Twitter history.

Historically, the Twitter API has been marketed and developed as an "Open API" which is what has helped Twitter to become a popular and successful social platform. Now that Twitter has cut off LinkedIn's access to the Twitter API, third party developers may wonder if it's wise to integrate the Twitter API into their web projects as they may lose access sometime in the not too distant future.

The idea that the Twitter API may become "closed" to developers has been discussed in several articles including "A Solution to the Twitter API Problem" by Nova Spivack and "How API access will determine the future of social" by Jim Dougherty.

Third party developers have had a large part in Twitter's success as a social platform. By limiting or possibly closing access to the Twitter API, Twitter risks diminishing the user experience and losing support from developers who may have used the Twitter API in their applications if the openness of the platform had been preserved.

Only time will tell what Twitter's intentions regarding their API truly are. For now many developers are wondering if the "Open Twitter API" will eventually become a thing of the past.

Janet Wagner is a freelance writer and contributor to ProgrammableWeb covering breaking news, in-depth analysis, and product reviews. She writes well-researched, in-depth articles about APIs, machine learning, deep learning, computer vision, GIS, maps, and many other technologies.



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