Earlier this summer, Twitter made a public declaration about their intentions to “deliver a consistent experience” across all connected sites and apps. They tightened up their developer rules and started cutting loose those folks that didn’t fit with the new model. Now, they’ve taken another step which could severely impact some of the more popular third-party clients.
Twitter has just announced another round of changes which includes a cap on user tokens.
If you are building a Twitter client application that is accessing the home timeline, account settings or direct messages API endpoints (typically used by traditional client applications) or are using our User Streams product, you will need our permission if your application will require more than 100,000 individual user tokens.
We will not be shutting down client applications that use those endpoints and are currently over those token limits. If your application already has more than 100,000 individual user tokens, you’ll be able to maintain and add new users to your application until you reach 200% of your current user token count (as of today) — as long as you comply with our Rules of the Road. Once you reach 200% of your current user token count, you’ll be able to maintain your application to serve your users, but you will not be able to add additional users without our permission.
In other words, if your Twitter-based client is popular, you’ll need their permission to continue. Interesting, but not unexpected. Twitter has something people want, an enormous amount of timely, trendy data. If they choose to regulate who gets to use the data, that’s their business and it’s good business, even if developers don’t like it.
Commenters around the web are complaining that Twitter is biting off the hands that helped lift them up to greatness. But look at it this way, if your neighbor uses your wireless network to build his profitable website, you’d say that’s not fair. I say, this is the same thing. The only real difference is the publicity and the good will.
If Twitter comes off looking like a bully who doesn’t want to share his playground, that could cause folks to abandon the service. Especially if they cut off access to sites people have come to depend on. In reality, it’s not likely to cause a mass exodus and if Twitter picks and chooses their partners wisely, they should come out stronger and more profitable in the end.