Tweetpolice

A recent post on the Twitter developer blog called Changes coming in Version 1.1 of the Twitter API has been causing a lot of consternation amongst developers of Twitter apps (and users of said apps). Now it may well be that a lot of this consternation may be caused by some misunderstandings—the post is not very clearly written.

For example, in the section headed Display Guidelines will be Display Requirements, the following dictum is issued:

We will require all applications that display Tweets to adhere to these. Among them: linking @usernames to the appropriate Twitter profile, displaying appropriate Tweet actions (e.g. Retweet, reply and favorite) and scaling display of Tweets appropriately based on the device. If your application displays Tweets to users, and it doesn’t adhere to our Display Requirements, we reserve the right to revoke your application key.

As it happens, I’ve started recently embedding tweets on my site here using the embed code provided by Twitter. But it seemed pretty clear to me that the new proclamation wouldn’t apply to me: the blog post is talking about usage of the Twitter API. So if you retrieve a tweet using the API, you must display it according to the display guideli—er, requirements. Fair enough.

Just to double-check, I asked one of my (many) friends who work at Twitter. “These display requirements …they don’t apply to me quoting a tweet on my blog, right?”

The answer I got surprised me. Apparently the display guidel… requirements do apply to me. If I want to quote a tweet on my website, I’m supposed to use the embed code to make sure that people can favourite/retweet/follow, etc.

Fuck. That. Shit.

If I want to quote something from another URL, I will do it. I’ll use a blockquote element of course, but I will not be told what markup and JavaScript I must include on my site.

This reminds of those companies that don’t get the web, that have rules in their terms and conditions about how you’re supposed to link back to their website. Twitter’s hammerheaded approach seems remarkably clueless for such a hitherto clued-up company.

I’ve gone back through my previous blog posts where I was using the official embed code and I’ve stripped it out of each and every one. If you are quoting a tweet on your site, I strongly encourage you not to use the offical embed code. I strongly encourage Twitter to stick their display requirements where the sun don’t shine.

Here’s something Jason Kottke said:

I love Twitter the service and I am starting to really dislike Twitter the company.

That’s a tweet. I’m quoting it. I’m not using Twitter’s embed code. I’m not adhering to the display requirements.

Come at me, bird.

Update: So, according to Ryan Sarver the new display gui…requirements only apply to API-retrieved tweets after all (as I first thought). I told him that wasn’t what I heard from a Twitter employee and he said:

We need to be clearer, internally as well.

He went on to say:

We don’t expect every reporter/blogger to do the full thing. However, we do want them to link back to author, attribute, etc.

I said a guideline to that effect would be just fine, but a requirement would not. He agreed, comparing it to journalistic standards and ethics.

I could have linked to those tweets I just quoted from. I chose not to.

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