Twitter Starts the Chatter on API Guidelines

TwitterOn the Twitter development mailing list today Twitter began discussion on rules developers should abide by when writing applications for the Twitter API.  Such terms come on the heels of a much broader Terms of Service launched for the general Twitter user today. I’ve long discussed the need for such guidelines, as many developers are embarking on an unknown adventure when writing apps for the platform, unable to tell when something they are doing is breaking rules for Twitter platform usage.  We’ve seen this get out of hand with the launch of many “get-rich-quick” applications, along with applications that Tweet on your behalf either in public or DM form without your knowledge.

Twitter’s initial platform guidelines include the following, stating that developers of Twitter applications must:

  • Identify the user that authored or provided the Tweet, unless you are providing Tweets in an aggregate form or in anonymous form in those exceptional cases where concerns over user security and anonymity are involved.
  • Maintain the integrity of Tweets and not edit or revise them. Tweets may be abbreviated for display purposes and as necessary due to technical limitations or requirements of any networks, devices, services or media.
  • Get each user’s consent before sending Tweets or other messages on their behalf. A user authenticating with your application does not constitute consent to send a message.
  • Get permission from the user that created the Tweet if you want to make their Tweet into a commercial good or product, like using a Tweet on a t-shirt or a poster or making a book based on someone’s Tweets.

The most significant of the 4 items is that apps will no longer be able to send Tweets on a user’s behalf without their permission, although this is unclear if this includes automated DMs, and if this permission must be on a “Tweet-by-Tweet” basis or not.  In addition, users can feel secure that their Tweets will not be used without their permission in a commercial endeavor, although I’m pretty sure Copyright law will protect this.

This is a great move by Twitter, and one I strongly welcome.  Even if it prevents some developers from building applications, it sets the record straight so they know what they can, and can’t be doing.  Keep in mind that this is only a proposal at the moment, and nothing is set in stone.  You can contribute to the discussion on the developers mailing list.

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