Monday, May 11, 2009

Twitter Limitations

Before I do part 2 of my Twittering from U2 series, I thought I should explain some limitations of this technology.

First, you are limited to 140 characters. Actually, this is not a big deal as you can usually indicate status pretty effectively in a lot less than this, and longer strings tend to be slow to process, anyways.

Next up, there is a limit to the number of tweets you can do in a day or hour. As near as I can tell, these are the current limits:

  • 1,000 total updates per day, for your account.
  • 1,000 total direct messages per day, for your account.
  • 100 API requests per hour, for your account.

Then there are follow limits. Here is twitter's own commentary about it:

The entry is from last Nov., but I could not find a newer one.

You can request white list status and these limits will disappear. Note that the limits on follows are a bit more complex, and they are quite controversial. I found this link:

Interesting stuff. Note that whitelisting is not likely to happen for an automated app. Twitter is a social networking site and they are free, which means they can't afford to take bandwidth from a ton of high-volume commercial apps. Low volume notification of status stuff is probably OK, and especially if you are personally monitoring it, it falls more or less within the confines of a social networking use.

So, to summarize:

If you are thinking about using Twitter to automate something between systems, you need to find something where timeliness and reliability are not an issue (our next blog will address some of that), you need something where you are not talking about high volume. And for now, you probably need to avoid those parts of the API that involve following other Twitter accounts, unless you can keep the volume very low.

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