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Twitter officially unveils more-restrictive API

Lex Friedman | Sept. 6, 2012
Turns out Twitter needs considerably more than 140 characters to explain its increasingly restrictive application-programming interface (API) changes to developers.

As part of its new Developer Rules of the Road, Twitter explicitly states that it reserves the right to temporarily or permanently block access to its API form those developers it determines "have attempted to exceed or circumvent" its limitations, and says that it will "monitor [developers'] use of the Twitter ensure your compliance with these Rules." The Rules also state that developers must use Twitter's own options as the defaults for common features such as photo uploading (via, suggested user lists, and trending topics. The rules further state that developers can "not attempt to interfere with, disrupt, filter, or disable any features of the Twitter API...including the content of embedded Tweets and embedded timelines." That seems to imply that showing content that Twitter embeds in tweets--iTunes Store previews, images, and the like--will no longer be optional for third-party clients.

And Twitter hints that ads may be coming to your timeline in third-party apps. The documentation states, "Twitter reserves the right to serve advertising via its APIs ("Twitter Ads"). If you decide to serve Twitter Ads once we start delivering them, we will share a portion of advertising revenue with you per our then-current terms and conditions." Though the company says it will allow developers to continue showing ads around tweets--in other words, elsewhere in an app or on a website--the only ads that can be displayed in the actual Twitter timeline are Twitter Ads.

None of the newly revealed API specifics are shocking, but they do make clear that Twitter is standing its ground, making life for third-party developers tougher and more restricted than ever before. Whether that will stifle innovation across third-party clients and apps remains to be seen.


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