Home / Industry / Infotech /  Twitter shutters share count API

Bengaluru: Social-networking giant Twitter Inc. has shuttered its Twitter Count API (an API is a code that allows applications to talk to each other), with which the number of times a tweet had been shared could be viewed, sparking concern among developers and marketers who relied on it to show social engagement.

This is among a number of changes that are being contemplated at the company, including lengthening its 140-character limit to radically re-think the service, which was invented at a time when mobile Internet was still young, in order to better monetise its services and compete with rivals Facebook Inc. and Google Inc.

Although Twitter announced these changes in a blog post on 6 October, they came into effect from 20 November.

In the post, Hard decisions for a sustainable platform Twitter said that the share count was not a true reflection of the real engagement that takes place on the platform.

“This count does not reflect the impact on Twitter of conversation about your content — it doesn’t count replies, quote Tweets, variants of your URLs, nor does it reflect the fact that some people Tweeting these URLs might have many more followers than others."

Twitter also defended its decision to stop the service saying that the API was never a part of the APIs it officially supported.

“We’ve often cautioned in our developer forums that use of such undocumented endpoints shouldn’t be relied upon, as we cannot commit to supporting them," it said.

This announcement didn’t go down well with marketers and makers of social sharing plugins, which are used on web pages to show how many times an article has been shared on various social networking sites, such as Warfare Plugins LLC, who say that Twitter’s push to use Gnip, a service owned by it that enables access to historical Twitter data, is expensive and unfeasible for small developers. This data can still be accessed using the Twitter REST API, but it is a complicated procedure and gives limited data compared to what was available before.

Twitter seems to want to cut-off the easy access that third-party developers so far had to its data, and drive more users to its main interface where it can better monetise them and to turn twitter data into premium information, for organisations with deep pockets.

This data restriction will also hamper the vibrant academic research that takes place on Twitter in fields ranging from sentiment analysis to linguistics.

Warfare Plugins said in a blog post that Twitter is “throwing away dollars to make pennies," but it remains to be seen if this is the start of a re-definition of social engagement and if other companies will follow suit.

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