This section explains what Twitter is, how the Twitter API works, and projects the idea of Twitter as a platform.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a micro-blogging service that allows people to post messages. The maximum length of each message is 140 characters. Twitter enables social networking by allowing people to follow and communicate with each other. Over time, this has proven to be a powerful communications medium because of it's real-time nature. Whenever news breaks around the world, people are tweeting that news as it happens. For more information about Twitter, visit Twitter.com.

How Does the Twitter API Work?

The Twitter API is built using Representable State Transfer (REST). Wikipaedia defines REST as "...a style of software architecture for distributed hypermedia systems...", but I'm going to be so bold as to try to simplify what that means. In practice, REST is a Web service protocol built upon Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). You use the REST Web service by making an HTTP call with a URL and getting text back in some form, which is often XML or JSON. So, if you were to write code that made an HTTP request with the following URL:

http://api.twitter.com/1/statuses/public_timeline.xml

You would get back an XML document with all of the Twitter statuses from the public timeline, which is a snapshot in time of the last 20 tweets at the time of your request. Go ahead and open your browser, copy and paste the URL above into the address bar, and see what you get back.

What Does the Twitter API Do for Me?

Because of all the statuses being entered 24x7 all year long throughout the world, Twitter is an incredible source of information. There are many useful applications you can write to keep people informed about the subject concerning your industry and what people are saying. As of this writing, there are over 500 registered applications using the Twitter API. The API includes dozens of URLs with many options. This API is continuously growing and the 3rd party ecosystem continues to grow also. Twitter is more than an API where you can get the last 20 tweets, it is a platform that you and I can build upon to create useful applications or integrate functionality with existing applications. I invite you to inspect the Twitter API and peruse the changelog to get a feel for the continuous growth and improvement of this platform.

Last edited Mar 14, 2010 at 8:02 AM by JoeMayo, version 1