Twitter unveiled some of the upcoming changes to version 1.1 of its API that could have a drastic impact on the service's third-party ecosystem.
As promised, Twitter is squeezing the knot around the neck of third-party Twitter apps that mimic Twitter.com with a more stringent set of API rules.
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The changes in Twitter API V 1.1 are all designed to foster "a consistent Twitter experience" and include universal endpoint authentication, per-endpoint rate-limiting and a number of crucial changes to the "Developer Rules of the Road." It may be the latter changes that prove most troubling to the remaining collection of third-party, consumer-focused Twitter clients.
The new rules start by transforming the fuzzier "Display Guidelines" into "Display Requirements." Guidelines are something you can choose to work with or not. Rules are, well, rules. Those clients that do not adhere to rules like proper scaling per device could have their application key revoked.
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Similarly, all of these apps have to be certified by Twitter before pre-installation (say prior to consumer delivery). Failure to do so could result in application key revocation.
Twitter may also be seeking to limit the number of users these third-party tools can have. Its last Rules of the Road update says that developers who need a large number of user tokens will have to work directly with Twitter to acquire them. The company does acknowledge that some third-party developer apps are already past these new limits and is willing to work with them, but only to a point. When they grow to 200% of their current size, they'll need to get the okay from Twitter to grow further.
Paul Haddard of Tapbots, the company behind the popular iOS client Tweetbot responded to the new user token caps, saying:
The sky is not falling, I’d obviously prefer that there wasn’t any cap, but the current cap is pretty huge and we aren’t going anywhere.
— Paul Haddad (@tapbot_paul) August 16, 2012
He also added that Tweebot for Mac is "still on track" and that the beta will be out soon.
Twitter developers currently using version 1.0 of the Twitter API will have six months to migrate to version 1.1.
Shifting the Focus on the Ecosystem
By changing the rules for developers -- especially developers of traditional Twitter clients -- Twitter is also hoping to refocus developer activity on its overall ecosystem.
In the post outlining the Twitter API 1.1 changes, Twitter's Michael Sippey organized apps that use Twitter data into four quadrants.
Going forward, Twitter is explicitly telling developers not to focus on the upper right-hand quadrant -- traditional Twitter clients and syndication -- and is instead urging developers to focus on other quadrants for their apps and services.
This mirrors advice Twitter gave to developers) back in March 2011 -- focus on projects that are not traditional Twitter clients.
Although Storify and Favstar.fm are mentioned as falling into the upper-right quadrant, Ryan Sarver, director of platform at Twitter, clarified that those two services are examples of what types of activity Twitter wants to see moving forward.
Ostensibly, that means that pure third-party clients, such as Tweetbot, Echofon and Twitterrific are out of luck.
Moving on From Here
The early response from some of the major Twitter client developers is one of an uneasy calm. Twitter has been threatening to take a harder stance against third-party clients for almost 18 months and many developers were already operating under the assumption that another shoe was about to drop.
The question becomes, will these developers -- many of whom have helped shape Twitter as a service and community at a fundamental level -- continue to invest in the platform.
Right now, it's too early to tell. Still, today's announcement is a great endorsement for Dalton Caldwell's App.net. App.net recently raised more than $600,000 in crowdfunding with a goal of creating a Twitter-like platform that isn't funded by advertising and that doesn't limit users or developers rights with the API.
The impact on users won't be visible until the new changes take effect -- but for some users, it could mean a drastically different experience.
What do you think of Twitter's API changes? Let us know in the comments.
Lance Ulanoff contributed to this article
This story originally published on Mashable here.