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Twitter API overhaul threatens to seriously shaft apps... again

Devs get nervous as streams interface sunset approaches with no replacement ready

Updated Twitter's planned discontinuation of its streaming APIs in June has third-party developers worried that a replacement service won't be available in time to prevent their Twitter apps from breaking.

The makers of Talon, Tweetbot, Tweetings, and Twitterrific have joined together to create a webpage expressing their concerns and to rally developers and customers to urge Twitter to respond.

The Register asked Twitter for comment, but all we heard were crickets.

Twitter, even more than Facebook, has a history of pulling the rug out from under developers' feet. The company has repeatedly encouraged developers to build software clients on its platform, only to change its platform rules and capabilities as it tried to figure out a viable business plan.

Facebook behaved with similar capriciousness about a decade ago as its focus shifted from desktop to mobile, but eventually programmers got so fed up that in 2014, Zuckerberg declared the social network's motto going forward would be "move fast with stable infrastructure."

It's previous motto, "move fast and break things" didn't work out so well for developers. Twitter appears to be trying out "move slowly and obtusely."

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In December last year, the micro-blogging biz warned that its streaming APIs will be retired on June 19, 2018, and advised developers to revise their code to implement the new Account Activity API as a replacement.

But the bird-themed social network hasn't yet made the Account Activity API available to developers outside its private beta tester club.

The third-party developers raising the alarm are concerned that they won't have enough time to revise their apps and that the replacement API won't offer equivalent functionality, forcing them to either pay for costly enterprise API access – not really an option for small app developers – or dropping features that can no longer be supported.

Webhook, line, and sinker

It's also not clear whether the Account Activity API will be capable of handling real-time Twitter data as capably as the User Stream and Site Stream APIs. Instead of pushing streamed data to a persistent session, developers will have to implement webhooks to register apps to receive Twitter data.

Twitter's developer documentation says, "the Account Activity API delivers real-time access to all activities…"

But the standard version of the API (as opposed to the enterprise version) accepts only 35 subscriptions. The makers of Talon, Tweetbot, Tweetings, and Twitterrific believe this means their apps could only support 35 Twitter accounts for push notifications and they contend webhooks won't support automatic timeline refresh since client devices typically aren't running web servers that Twitter can contact with updates.

Until Twitter makes its revised API available to developers, it's difficult to be sure. ®

Updated to add

After this story was filed, Twitter said via tweet that it will delay the June 19 sunset date for its old APIs. In an email to The Register, a company spokesperson said Twitter is focused on making sure developers have ample time to migrate to the new API.

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