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What Twitter’s Rate Limit Changes Mean to You

August 17, 2012

Twitter PoliceTwitter recently announced new rate limits on how many “hits” to the API it will allow. Now before your eyes glaze over wondering what that means, let me put it into English.

When an application like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck or a mobile Twitter app like Tweetbot checks your account on Twitter, it’s what is called an “API Call”. This does NOT include the number of messages you send through these tools, only the number of times the tool hits the Twitter server to check for more. Twitter is changing the number of times the application can do that from 350 per hour to 60.

There are a lot of complicated issues here, and if you’re not a developer you probably don’t care about those, so I’m not going to explain the differences between Rest API limiting and Feature-base limiting, you can learn all you want about that in Twitter’s docs.

In this diagram taken from the Twitter developer blog they break Twitter’s ecosystem up into 4 quadrants. They want to continue to encourage people who use Twitter for business, to draw out analytics and integrate with media, but discourage the applications that syndicate or are traditional Twitter clients. Those are the apps in the upper right quadrant of the diagram. Unfortunately for me, they specifically called out some of my favorite apps like Tweetbot, Storify and Echofon as examples by name. ) :/

Twitter use Quadrant
Image from Twitter.com

What this means to you
If you use a Twitter application to get to Twitter and post, it used to be that the application could make 350 “calls” to Twitter per hour. That number is going to be reduced to 60 per hour. In effect it means that your Twitter apps may have to limit how often they can check the system and you’ll see messages slower. If you go over your limit for the hour, you’ll be forced to go check on the Twitter website. Participating in Tweet Chats will have to take place on the website or you’ll probably quickly o over the limits. (the last tweet chat I was in I posted 435 times in an hour and the conversation was flying so quickly there were over 1,000 tweets with the chat hashtag in that one hour alone.)

To put that even more into perspective, when Usain Bolt (@UsainBolt) of Jamaica won the gold in the 200m sprint there were more than 80,000 Tweets per minute (according to Twitter) If @UsainBolt‘s team were monitoring mentions of his account on an application he would have missed anything after 350 Tweets in that hour after he won. Now he’d miss all after the first 60.

Why are they doing this?
They didn’t call me up and tell me, so here’s my opinion. Twitter prefers you use their website to access it. You see the ads there, recommendations and it gives Twitter better ways to measure what you do when you interact with it. They are building their own tools to interact with Twitter like Twitter Cards and they want us to use those.

They also said “ … developers should not build client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience“. Which I take to mean they have to do something with the data, not just copy Twitter to their own app. They want to hold all the cards. Really, the vast majority of users do just that. They use Twitter online or the Twitter application on their smart phone, so for the average user this isn’t such a big deal at all.

So who cares?
Well I do for one. I manage multiple accounts for my clients and I’m a big user of several apps that will be affected by this change. Hootsuite, Twylah and TweetBot are the apps I use the most. We’ll just have to wait and see how this plays out. Lots of people are confused/upset/outraged and confused again by this. Here are some other posts about it if you want some other perspectives from bloggers like Dieter Bohn, Charles Arthur, The Next Web, As well as a tweet I found this morning that speaks to a whole different issue. What about emergency uses of Twitter?

Twitter API limits and Emergencies


What can I do?
I’d start by thinking about how you use Twitter. If you are on your smart phone 24/7 as I am and you rely on a tool like Tweetbot for your interaction for yourself or for your business then you could Tweet them your support and if you start hitting limits a lot you may need to start checking your Tweet stream on the Twitter website. Personally that chafes me a bit, but there you are.

OR. You can just move your fine social network over to Google+. #JustSayin

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  • Thanks for the informative, plain English post! There’s a LinkedIn poll running right now that asks “what social network could you give up for the rest of your life?” (http://ow.ly/ddsXy) and so far, G+ is leading with 55% of the votes and some people left comments as to why they aren’t into G+, so I’m willing to bet that people would suffer through the message delays of Twitter clients and even *gasp* actually log in to Twitter (as painful as that is) before making the switch to G+. For me, the biggest impact will be on Tweetchats, because there are so many messages being sent. But, since it’s something we’ll all be experiencing, I’m sure we’ll all find a workaround or adapt to the slower pace.
    Follow Me: @hcsm_Rosilyn

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