Twitter's Gift To Developers: Limitless User Streams And Annotations

One of the biggest gripes among Twitter developers are the rate limits on Twitter data, particularly Tweets, Retweets and other user data. Talking to developers today at Chirp, Twitter’s director of platform Ryan Sarver announced that Twitter will be removing rate limits on what he calls “User Streams.” By developing new push technology, Twitter will be able to update Tweets, retweets, @replies, direct messages, and favorites on desktop apps like Tweetdeck in realtime. “No more rate limit, no more waiting, no more polling,” he promises. It is not clear when this will launch, but Twitter will open up the functionality to developers for at least a couple days during its Hack Days following Chirp.

Removing the delay between Tweets appearing on and in various apps is a big deal because it will help put those third-party apps on more of a level playing field with Twitter’s own apps. Speed is very important to many users, who will give up the other bells and whistles available in fancier apps if they can’t get their Tweets faster than on In a demo onstage, changes on done on showed up instantaneously on TweetDeck. Whether this performance can be replicated across millions of desktops remains to be seen until launch, but at least Twitter is addressing the performance problem.

Sarver also indicated that Twitter is working to open up its full firehose of data to more companies, something it has already begun to do. The full firehose is every single Tweet, and is more important for realtime search and analytics apps.

Finally, Twitter will launch Annotations next quarter. Annotations will allow developers to “add any arbitrary metadata to any tweet.” For instance, today Tweets can be tagged by the application that created it, the location it was sent from, and who it is replying to. All of this metadata allows Tweets to be sorted and filtered in interesting ways. Rather than wait for Twitter to officially launch a new type of annotation, Twitter is opening that up to developers who can come up with their own.

Developers can learn more about building apps for Twitter and using its APIs at a new Twitter Developer site opening up later today.

Read our full Chirp coverage.