Twitter API version 1.1: RSS support dropped, third-party clients discouraged

6 Sep 2012

Version 1.1 of Twitter’s API has been released, with improved rate limits, authentication required on all endpoints, restrictions for third-party clients and updates to its Developer Rules of the Road and Developer Display Requirements.

Many of these changes were expected as the API update was outlined a few weeks ago. However, there are still some surprises, such as the new authentication requirements, which are intended to prevent abusive behaviour but will also give Twitter further control over how its data is used.

JSON support only – RSS, XML and Atom dropped

A bigger surprise is the decision to drop support for RSS, XML and Atom. Twitter had already dropped XML support from its streaming and trends APIs, so that was on the cards, but one would think that RSS and Atom – being two commonly used formats for web feeds – would continue untouched.

But Twitter had other ideas and has decided to focus on JSON support only, claiming that XML, Atom and RSS were only seeing infrequent use.

Alongside this announcement, though, comes the introduction of a new tool from Twitter to embed interactive feeds on any website. Feeds can come from a single user or list of users, or follow a chosen hashtag. The embedded feed will provide the same functionality as the feed on the main Twitter site, allowing users to follow others, expand tweets to see photos or video content, and send, reply, retweet and favourite tweets.

This new tool is more necessary now than ever as many services pulling feeds from Twitter for display elsewhere would have relied on RSS.

Third-party restrictions

Twitter has also updated its Developer Rules of the Road and Developer Display Requirements. These advise developers not to add or remove functionality from tweets or change the vernacular of the Twittersphere by substituting other words for tweet actions. Twitter also doesn’t want applications to resyndicate its data and, if a service consumes Twitter data, it is not allowed to expose it via an API or post it to other cloud services.

LinkedIn, Instagram and Tumblr have already seen the effect of Twitter’s new restrictions, but perhaps the worst hit (so far) has been Tweetbot. The popular third-party Twitter client is currently developing a desktop application for Mac but had to shut down access to its alpha and beta testing due to Twitter’s decision to cap user access.

Among its new API rules, Twitter limits third-party clients to 100,000 user tokens. This doesn’t apply to the entire Twitter ecosystem, just the apps that replicate the core Twitter experience and don’t direct traffic back to the site – the very apps that Twitter is trying to stamp out.

Tweetbot for Mac’s alpha/beta testing has been restarted, but no new users can be added as the developers want to save their limited number of user tokens for when they launch the complete, paid-for version, which they have assured is going ahead.

As you can see, Twitter’s new rules exist to directly discourage third-party Twitter clients, though the company still supports apps that focus on engagement, analytics and data reselling, naming some of them Twitter Certified Products.

Developers must fall into line with the new API rules by 5 March 2013 or risk being cut off from the Twitter API.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.