What’s Twitter’s Real Motive for the API Cuts?

The tech blogosphere is in a flutter over a decision by Twitter to limit authorized requests to the Twitter API to 20,000 per hour. If that doesn’t make any sense to you, what it means is that third party tools, for example SocialToo, can only interact with Twitter (for lack of a better term) 20,000 times an hour.

Now that might seem a lot, but considering millions access Twitter through third party tools, it’s not even remotely large. For example, a desktop client might access Twitter every 3 minutes, that’s 20 times an hour. If you’ve got only 1,000 users, that’s 20,000 requests. It’s not a great example, but it works for visualization; strangely the limit is per IP address, so desktop clients won’t be affected, only third party tools that interact with the data like SocialToo and Qwitter are. We’re not sure about FriendFeed at this stage.

The real question though is why, or more precisely why now?

From the outside it would appear that Twitter is cutting off some of the hands that feed it. This isn’t the first time Twitter has restricted third party access, and like last time the net result will likely be services shutting down.

Twitter pleads service demands and costs, which is not unreasonable, although likewise they’re not short of money to sustain it, even if they are short on revenue (which is none).

But at the same time we know that Twitter is developing revenue making services.

What if some of these services offered similar features to those being blocked by this decision?

It’s not inconceivable that Twitter might offer a “premium” account along the lines of what Flickr offers, say $50 for two years. As part of that account, you might get similar services to what is offered by Qwitter and SocialToo, services I might add that are both logical extensions to Twitter, and perhaps long overdue.

Twitter’s problem though is that 3rd party service providers offering this functionality for free would undercut a premium offering along the same lines.

Truth be told though they are fully within their rights to do what they have done. The insanity is that VC’s are investing in companies that rely on Twitter API access to begin with. It’s not a solid base from which to build a business.

Louis Gray has more on the take from SocialToo’s perspective.