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Twitter API ToS To Force Routing Clicks To Twitter 92

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the too-big-for-their-britches dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Twitter has announced that it will change the way it handles URLs in tweets. This has been widely reported, including the likely consequences for bit.ly. What has not received much attention, and was not in the official blog announcement (but in the Google Twitter developers mailing list instead) is that the Terms of Service for all applications that use the Twitter API will be changed to require that any click on a URL in a tweet be routed through a Twitter gateway, allowing Twitter to see exactly which links are followed and by whom."
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Twitter API ToS To Force Routing Clicks To Twitter

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  • by Pojut (1027544)

    I can understand why they want to do this for tracking purposes, but won't this break a lot of older Twitter apps?

    • Re:hmmm (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Z00L00K (682162) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @09:23AM (#32522638) Homepage

      And soon it will end up making Twitter losing it's popularity.

      It seems to me that as soon as commercial interests takes over a certain web service it's obsolete and will soon be replaced by something else.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        It seems to me that as soon as commercial interests takes over a certain web service it's obsolete and will soon be replaced by something else.

        No, that's usually the point at which so many people are using the damned thing that trying to replace it now would be futile.

        Take Facebook, no matter what kind of crap they do now, people still keep using it. You really think that most of the Twits who Tweet will know or care about this?

        • Am I the only one who thinks that Twitter is created by and for morons? It's picture perfect. I can imagine a 60s novel predicting such an avenue for useless information, but the author would have not chosen to name it anything like "Twitter" because his readers wouldn't have taken him seriously.

          But hey, who's to bother making such a point amongst the masses? No one even pays attention to accomplishments, elegance, or talent. So many beautiful songs are written every day, and we end up with things like Pok
          • by Anonymous Coward

            It's not just twitter, mind you. The whole Web 2.0 movement is built around a dumbing-down of computing, both for the users and the implementers.

            Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Digg, and the other major properties are nothing but a collection of useless data. Even the advertising and datamining uses are of limited or dubious value.

            It's hilarious that twitter, for instance, is crumbling under a load that the airline and financial industries could handle back in the 1970s. Instead of using better products, Web 2.

          • by gstoddart (321705)

            Am I the only one who thinks that Twitter is created by and for morons?

            Well, that might be a bit harsh. ;-) I don't use it, but for some people, I'm sure it's a really cool thing.

            but the author would have not chosen to name it anything like "Twitter" because his readers wouldn't have taken him seriously

            Well, I think the word "twitter" in the English language is well matched by the intent of the service. It could be both the sound of the message arriving, and the excitement/buzz conveyed by being "all a tw

          • by cgenman (325138) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @11:16AM (#32523888) Homepage

            You're complaining about a lack of elegance and talent in modern music and yet you used that pun in your title?

            Twitter is a communications medium that requires brevity and succinctness. It's a chance for friends to keep in touch about moderate to low-importance notifications in a way that is appropriate for their value. "I'm heading to Ikea later today. Anyone want to come?" "Need a replacement for an Ibanez Tubescreamer." Etcetera. It's a bit like the chatter that would happen when people chatter in person, but with a forced character limit. Someone saying "I've had a bad day" isn't interesting in and of itself, but it is interesting if it is from someone you happen to care about.

            • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

              by ElKry (1544795)

              "I'm heading to Ikea later today. Anyone want to come?"

              How very naive of you. It would be "Headn 2 ikea l8r, n1 come?". When mentioning brevity and succinctness, keep in mind what sms and IM did to the English (and any other) language.

          • by horatio (127595)

            the author would have not chosen to name it anything like "Twitter" because his readers wouldn't have taken him seriously.

            "TrisexualPuppy"? @Kettle tweeted that you screamed you're black! at him and now won't reply to his DMs.

          • Stop being so melodramatic and get over yourself. Seriously.

          • by Palshife (60519)

            I would bitch about it on the Internet. Should solve your problem.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Just Some Guy (3352)

            Am I the only one who thinks that Twitter is created by and for morons?

            No. There are plenty of "get off my lawn!" types to go around. I'm not going to write the next Great American Novel on Twitter, but neither can I text my Underwood typewriter and have it relay the message to my friends.

            • by nagnamer (1046654)

              but neither can I text my Underwood typewriter and have it relay the message to my friends.

              I think he meant people who want to text their friends en masse are morons in general.

          • by hkmwbz (531650)

            Am I the only one who thinks that Twitter is created by and for morons? It's picture perfect. I can imagine a 60s novel predicting such an avenue for useless information, but the author would have not chosen to name it anything like "Twitter" because his readers wouldn't have taken him seriously.

            It's only useless if you choose to make it useless. If you follow people with useless tweets and your own tweets are useless, it will be useless. But you can choose to follow people who have something interesting t

          • by mobets (101759)

            I think twitter or something like it would be a good way to receive infrequent announcements. I use RSS (via google reader) for news, but if I subscribed to a feed that was only updated every other month, it would get buried under the 100s of articles a week from other sources. E-mail would work, but would place a larger burden on the source of the update. Maybe the RSS readers need a better way to organize and prioritize sources.

    • by crymeph0 (682581)
      Nevermind what the extra load will do to their already-fragile servers. The stupid whale is the only thing I've seen for two days now.
      • by horatio (127595)
        yep. this is the first thing I thought of. I understand why they want to do it (would be nice if the protocol were extended to allow attaching a URL, even if it had to go through them), but they're already running into capacity issues, what seems like fairly often.
  • by Random2 (1412773) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @08:53AM (#32522370) Journal

    So I can't distribute kiddy pron any more via twitter?

    On a more serious note, I don't see how this won't be abused by governments to track and shut down people who oppose them (like human rights activists that coordinate using twitter).

    • I don't see how this won't be abused by governments to track and shut down people who oppose them (like human rights activists that coordinate using twitter).

      Like these guys [twitter.com]

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Or for color revolution tracking. If a set issue gets x clicks from the target country, "routed through a Twitter gateway" would be nice realtime feedback.
      Great for the nexthttp://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/nov/26/ukraine.usa
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      So you would prefer to keep using bit.ly, which is Libya. I'm sure we can trust that government. Good thinking!
      • by nagnamer (1046654)

        So you would prefer to keep using bit.ly, which is Libya. I'm sure we can trust that government. Good thinking!

        bit.ly is actually based in New York, NY. So I guess you're right... :)

    • by lonecrow (931585)
      Ok So take take link AAAAAAA shorten it with bit.ly, then hand it to the twitter shortener.

      So user clicks twitter link that routes through twitter gateway to bit.ly. Problem solved.

      Although I guess they could spend some cycles expanding the bit.ly link but them cycles cost I assume.

      Ok so someone sets up an onion url shortening service. submit your URL and via API they run it through 5 consecutive shorten services and then hand it back. Call it linkTor(tm)
  • Meh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bsDaemon (87307) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @08:53AM (#32522372)

    I used to hate on twitter pretty hard-core until I realized that it was basically a party-line SMS service and was actually kind of neat. I've used the API via Perl, Ruby and PHP just to mess around, but nothing particularly serious. I actually haven't even bothered to tweet in a couple of weeks.

    None of that is particularly relevant, I suppose. I don't think I'll be progressing any further in twitter scripting, not really because of this, but its just sort of lost its appeal. Frankly, I shouldn't really be surprised at this move, though it is kind of annoying from a user perspective, knowing this is how they want to play the game. Of course, their game is kind of like the Baseketball of social networking, and if I just never logged in again, my life wouldn't be any different. Maybe I'll delete my new account I created after I had a change of heart following the last time I deleted a twitter account. I'm pretty sure that I could hold steady in my resolve this time.

  • by X10 (186866)

    All your tweets are belong to us.

    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      We are the Twits. Resistance is futile. You will be twitted.

      • by Binkleyz (175773)

        I am the master of the twit.

        Remember this fucking face. Whenever you see twit, you'll see this fucking face. I make that shit work.

        It does whatever the fuck I tell it to. No one rules the twit like me. Not this little fuck.

        None of you little fucks out there. I AM THE twit COMMANDER! Remember that, commander of all twits! When it comes down to business, this is what I do

      • We are the Nits, You will not be Picked you twit

    • by Alsee (515537) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @12:23PM (#32524638) Homepage

      I don't use twitter.
      I don't want to catch chirpies.
      It's a canarial disease.
      It's untweetable.

      -

  • Fail Whale.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So Twitless will check links for malware. Joe User likes this.

    Until the malware creator sniffs the user agent and IP, and returns safe content to Twitter, and only delivers malware to valid targets.

    • I get the impression it's not an automated process, or at least, not a solely automated process. There's no malware in the traditional sense at goatse.cx, but if it's reported as a malicious link it will probably get blocked anyway.
  • If deployed properly this could actually enhance security a bit. Pass the links through twitter servers which checks to make sure they not on a black list and then pass the traffic through.

    • by Spad (470073) <slashdotNO@SPAMspad.co.uk> on Thursday June 10, 2010 @09:04AM (#32522462) Homepage

      Ah, blacklists, the age old method of making sure people don't visit sites that you think are bad for them.

      • by ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @09:09AM (#32522510)
        Better than whitelists, where people decide what's good for you.
      • by rwv (1636355) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @09:17AM (#32522582) Homepage Journal

        When a small personal site that I administer got hacked by the Chinese (thanks to a Blogger security hole), Google and Firefox both flagged it as "dangerous" and took appropriate actions to warn people that visiting my site was a huge security risk. For sites that have been compromised by malware, it's absolutely necessary to inform visitors that they're exposing their computers to risk by visiting.

        Thus, having an "access blacklist" isn't always a bad thing. Something tells me Twitter isn't about to start censoring sites with information about the Freedom of Tibet or the Genocide in Darfur.

        • by Xacid (560407)

          This is pretty much my stance on the matter. Personally I prefer blacklisting based on group "voting" or whatever you call it. If enough people flag it - then there's probably an issue and then a real person can review and see what the issue is. This plus notifying users that there's suspected malware on certain sites adds more than its fair share of value to the end user, in my opinion.

          • 'if enough people flag it - then there's probably an issue'

            you mean like if someone were to Tweet "hey, this site is spam, flag it please" about a perfectly valid site?

            'Group think' is why representative democracies exist...the angry mob isn't exactly your best decision maker.
            • by Xacid (560407)
              Valid point but that's why you have a human at the the end of the line who is a bit more educated than the average "tweeter". Or heck - even a board or something. There are ways to make it work.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mr_mischief (456295)

          They'll just block links to Facebook, Yahoo, MySpace, any torrents, news sites critical of Twitter, and coverage of things like the recently outed auto-follow bug...

          • by rwv (1636355)

            I used to use a "free" webhost that inexplicably blocked all pages with links embedded in them that sent the user to Amazon.com. This was particularly annoying to diagnose because it was hard to find a correlation between an Error Page that says a perfectly good URL doesn't exist and the content of said page.

            Needless to say, I don't use that host anymore. If Twitter wants to make themselves irrelevant, then blocking Facebook, Yahoo, and MySpace sounds like a great idea.

            • Okay, I'll take my tongue out of my cheek for the reply.

              Chances are they wouldn't be stupid enough to actually block those links outright. They're not as big and as entrenched as Apple, after all.

              What they could easily do, though, is monitor exactly which features of the competition are mentioned, when, how, by whom, and how often. They could then react with market-based intelligence they'd have to spend millions for if they didn't control the communications channel. I'd say that's anticompetitive from the

        • by Reziac (43301) *

          I've had Google try to prevent me from going to perfectly legit sites free of taint, too.

        • For sites that have been compromised by malware, it's absolutely necessary to inform visitors that they're exposing their computers to risk by visiting.

          And, therefore, everybody should send every URL that they visit to Google or any other service? That's the most insane privacy setting that you can enable on your computer.

        • Something tells me Twitter isn't about to start censoring sites

          What tells you that? In all seriousness, you're basically using the rationalization that every censor has ever used before bringing down an iron fist - "trust us - we'll protect you". You need something a little more than just thinking these are nice guys and won't hurt you to justify putting this kind of control and power into someone's hands.

          And it really is a double edged sword. When the links are direct Twitter clearly has nothing to do with the content - it's clear. Once these links go through twi

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      They also show the link to you in the feed but not in sms of course.
      This is actually a good thing because it will be a tiny bit harder to hide where the link goes.
      But notice I said a tiny bit harder. You can still use bit.ly and Twitter will wrap bit.ly.

    • by nagnamer (1046654)

      If deployed properly this could actually enhance security a bit.

      I don't think it's all about security. For example, if it's only about security, there's no need to check who clicked the link. You only need to block the content on the other end.

      Wanna catch consumers of kiddy pr0n? No kiddy pr0n => no consumers => no need to catch anyone. So, again, blocking the target page instead of sniffing user activity takes care of this (at least on Twitter).

      So, obviously, logging user data without a good reason is only useful if you intend to do something entirely different w

  • With the rise of malicious links weeding through social networks and the various shortcomings of URL shortening services, I can see how this is useful. Twitter can "pull the plug" on a link instantly and it's automatically blocked on future tweets as well. Sure Twitter can get some sweet analytics out of it too, but if you don't like the fact they can see what you see then there's a magical mechanism called cut and paste too.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dk90406 (797452)
      And I suspect the people who use twitter don't have the need for privacy high on their list of priorities.
      • by jgagnon (1663075)

        If you use ANYTHING on the Internet that is not encrypted then you're throwing away your "right" to privacy. I don't get how people can use sites like Twitter, Google, or Facebook and somehow expect some semblance of privacy. If you want privacy then don't share your data or encrypt it first before you send it to a known destination. It's like using a megaphone to talk with someone far away and then complaining that other people are listening to your conversation.

  • I'm sure there are enough people bothered by this that it won't be long before someone comes up with a Firefox add-on to circumvent it.
  • Workaround (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Schezar (249629) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @09:08AM (#32522500) Homepage Journal

    I'm confident that at least some Twitter apps will simply not do this. What's Twitter going to do? Ban the popular apps? How would they even go about this? I fully expect the following interesting behavior by the apps that will end up being used the most by people like us.

    1. The faker. It will report semi-random clicks or route garbage through the gateway, but never the user's real clicks.
    2. The shirker. It will simply not route anything through the gateway.
    3. The hider. It will shirk the gateway, but simultaneously masquerade as some other app that itself plays by the rules.

    Twitter really has two options if they want to enforce something like this. They can force ALL apps to play by their rules (breaking functionality for perhaps a large portion of their userbase) or they can accept the fact that people will route around this. I don't see the former happening, in all honesty, and they've engendered little love from third party developers of late, so they can't count on developer goodwill either.

    • by Aikar (1158019)
      I think the article title is incorrect. There shouldn't be anything that applications themselves do over API. Twitter would simply rewrite all URL's tweeted to their router on page view. so when ever tweets are viewed all url's bounce through an exit node. many sites do this
    • or they can accept the fact that people will route around this

      They can require apps to authenticate with a signed certificate and revoke any that leak. So the authors will have to put DRM into their apps and stop distributing open source. And they'll have to kill the Twitter web client so nobody writes a scraper.

      Wait, maybe this idea wasn't entirely well thought-through. Some knucklehead probably said, "we should be selling an ad for each of these clicks!". Maybe they should try to figure out a business

  • by VendettaMF (629699) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @09:38AM (#32522766) Homepage

    "Hey guys, you know how Facebook's been getting away with screwing over the entire world on privacy issues?"
    "Uh, yeah?"
    "And you know how our average users are even dumber than theirs?"
    "Wouldn't have thought it possible if I I hadn't seen it in action, but yeah?"
    "Well...Why don't we..."
    "Ohhhhhhhh!"

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Luyseyal (3154)

      Fark.com has been doing this forever, at least for the main links. I'm quite surprised they haven't done it for inline links, yet.

      -l

  • It would be interesting to also see a list of trending URL links. Would be nice to see the popular links as well as trending topics. This would give them the data to allow that.
  • I'll post links to a bunch of semi-buried things on my blog and then sue Twitter for deep-linking.
  • Which site will survive this move, bit.ly or twitter?
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      We can only hope that they both die.

    • by afiske (1639599)

      Actually, I don't think it will really affect bit.ly in as direct a way as people are imagining. Twitter wraps the bit.ly URL, so bit.ly still gets to capture all the links/clicks. FTFA:

      "our current plan is that no user will see a t.co URL on twitter.com but we still have some details to work through. the links will still be displayed as they were sent in, but the target of the link will be the t.co link instead."

      ...and...

      "we're not modifying or tampering with URLs - if you send us a bit.ly link, we

  • I don't see why Twitter can't just massage all the URLs in the pages they deliver to first point to their servers which then insert an additional 302 redirect for tracking. It's not like they don't have complete control over this. Any URL shortening service will still work with this arrangement. They could even do it like Google and only employ this technique for a percentage of the web pages served up.

  • So having never used twitter before; Are these apps for cellphones? Do they intend to replace or force developers to replace all links t.co/wtf? Sounds like an icredible blow to security, not knowing where the links are going to send you.

    But if it's just a rule, what's keeping everyone from breaking it?

  • They're already scanning the tweets for urls to turn them into clickable hyperlinks. Why can't they do the url-swapping themselves?

    Changing a working API that people are already using, for no gain: dumb.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by linzeal (197905)
      They distribute 140 character chunks of information, we can just route around them by making an open source twitter.
    • They're already scanning the tweets for urls to turn them into clickable hyperlinks.

      They're doing that in the web front-end, not in the backend engine. The API bypasses the web front-end to access the back-end engine. Doing the scanning and replacement in the back-end would slow down the basic system (since it would have to be done as everything moves through the system, rather than just for those tweets that are viewed through the web front end). Its a lot cheaper for Twitter to require that people using t

  • They don't explicitly mention this (I suspect for reasons that are about to become clear), but it's not clear to me what twitter is using to hash their links. It could be the target URL, but it could just as easily be $user_id + $tweet_id. With 8 url-safe characters, they have room for ~300-700billion possible links (depending on their definition of url-safe), which means if one user posts a tweet with a link in it and then someone else RT's it or posts a tweet pointing to that same url, these tweets may ve

  • Nothing good comes to the people from spying on the people or modifying their data. It only gives the Powers That Be a better knife to slice us up with.

  • Repeat the process until twitter is spending 95% of its CPU/database time resolving chains of links to itself.

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