Twitter has announced they are making key changes to two areas of how their service works and its important that folks understand what those changes are and how they might be affected. To use most applications, you first authorize the application to access your Twitter account, after which you can use it to read and post Tweets, discover new users and more. There are a million of these, heck you might be using one right now and they include desktop applications like TweetDeck, Seesmic, or EchoFon, websites such as TweetMeme and Topsy, or mobile applications such as Twitter for iPhone, Twitter for Blackberry, or Foursquare just to name a few. The first major change is how you will authorize outside applications to interact with your Twitter Feed.
The first change was actually put into effect already on August 31 and it will require all applications to use “OAuth” to access your Twitter account. OAuth is a technology that enables applications to access Twitter on your behalf with your approval without asking you directly for your password. Desktop and mobile applications may still ask for your password once, but after that request, they are required to use OAuth in order to access your timeline or allow you to tweet. This is very important from a security and privacy standpoint because:
- Applications are no longer allowed to store your password.
- If you change your password, the applications will continue to work.
- Some applications you have been using may require you to reauthorize them or may stop functioning at the time of this change.
- All applications you have authorized will be listed at http://twitter.com/settings/connections.
- You can revoke access to any application at any time from the list.
The next thing has to do with URL wrapping which mostly closely resembles URL shortening as more of us know it through services like Bit.ly and the like, though it appears to be slightly different. Well Twitter has created their own url wrapping service and will begin rolling out to selected users with a goal of having it fully deployed to all users by the end of the year. Wrapped links are displayed in a way that is easier to read, with the actual domain and part of the URL showing, so that you know what you are clicking on. When you click on a wrapped link, your request will pass through the Twitter service to check if the destination site is known to contain malware, and we then will forward you on to the destination URL. When this happens, all links shared on Twitter.com or third-party apps will be wrapped with a t.co URL. How this affects services like Bit.ly I don’t quite know, I mean I can’t understand why you would wrap an already shortened url but I guess we will see. There are some advantages to this though such as:
- A really long link such as http://www.amazon.com/Delivering-Happiness-Profits-Passion-Purpose/dp/0446563048 might be wrapped as http://t.co/DRo0trj for display on SMS, but it could be displayed to web or application users as amazon.com/Delivering- or as the whole URL or page title.
- You will start seeing links in a way that removes the obscurity of shortened links and lets you know where each link will take you.
- When you click on these links from Twitter.com or a Twitter application, Twitter will log that click. We hope to use this data to provide better and more relevant content to you over time.
That last bullet is important, that means that Twitter is going to start tracking where you are going through clicked links and then more than likely sale that information to companies that your surfing habits match with. Twitter has to tighten up their business model at some point and this is a part of that. Twitter also seems to be doing the opposite of what Facebook did and taking user’s privacy into account up front which will benefit them in the long run. So what do you think, do you like the new changes?