New Twitter Guidelines and APIs Squeeze Third Party Apps

Twitter Policy Changes

Popular social communication tool Twitter announced big changes to its policies and APIs late Thursday. New restrictions on the way third-party applications can add users and display tweets has greatly concerned and angered the community, but Twitter says the changes are necessary to ensure reliable growth and network health for the company’s future.

Twitter currently allows developers of third party clients to slightly customize the way that tweets are displayed as a way of differentiating themselves from other third party competitors and Twitter itself, but it still wants all clients to maintain a relatively uniform look.

The new Display “Guidelines” greatly reduce developers’ discretion on displaying tweets going forward and turn what were formerly suggestions into requirements. Applications that fail to adopt the new rules will lose access to the service.

Twitter is also instituting “quality control:” all new twitter clients must be submitted to Twitter for approval and certification before they’re allowed to join the service.

Further, existing and new Twitter clients will now have a hard cap on the number of users they can serve. No app with less than 100,000 users can now go over that threshold without first getting explicit permission from Twitter. For apps that currently have more than 100,000 users, they will be limited to 200 percent of their current user base.

Twitter does allow for exceptions, but it’s clear that the company is trying to drive traffic to its own applications as well as “encourage” high-volume third party applications to enter into agreements with the company that may result in revenue.

Twitter is also highly interested in developing the analytics side of its service; the user caps mentioned above are raised to 1 million for services that only access and analyze Twitter data and don’t provide a communications front-end.

Twitter Policy Changes

via Twitter

Twitter provided the chart above to help developers understand how it sees the future of the service. Twitter wants paying customers to engage and innovate in areas described on the left, business, side of the chart but the right side, as VentureBeat puts it, is “sacred Twitter territory.”

Third party apps will still be allowed to function, but it’s clear that Twitter wants to have direct control over the consumer communication aspects of its business going forward.

Twitter’s changes will take effect in 6 months, the company informed developers. Those developers with a great idea for a new Twitter client might want to come up with something else before then.

Teaser graphic via Shutterstock.