Another one bits the dust.  Topify, a service that makes working with twitter and email much better decided to not to deal with the latest changes to the Twitter API.  And I can understand some what because one of the services of TwittFilter ( developed by Yours Truly)  has a similar service where it will send you an email when you get a mention or direct message. In my case, I still prefer my system since it does unread messages, not all, as well as blocks spam.  But I will admit, over the last few changes with the API in the past year and the expansion of Twitter services, I have been on the fence many times. The only thing that keep me updating my many twitter apps is in the fact that I still prefer my own program Twitter and second, its a hobby program, so I do not HAVE to respond same day if something breaks.

So when I found out about Topify decided not to update to the latest changes at Twitter, I was sympathetic.  And this I started to wonder.  Is there any reason to keep writing things on the Twitter API?  Yes and No.  Depends on what you are trying to do.

If you are trying to build something that is somewhat core, overlapping anything that the site can do, I would just stop now. Think about any service you are offering that would have have mass appeal, or fixes a failure on Twitter’s side that you know could be fixed if they just stepped up.  Just walk away.  This would fit in to the advice that Twitter gave to developers to stop building clients that just access Twitter.

However, if you are building very specific things, as I do, that have a feature or approach that is not complimentary to a logical next step for twitter to build, then you may want to keep it running.  For example, most of what I write is never seen. I tend to write a lot of very simple bots that do simple special jobs. Things a company like Twitter would find distracting because its not part of their core offering.

And if you think the rate of new apps would be slowing down since the latest changes in Twitter, you would be wrong.  On July 11, 2011, Twitter crossed the 1 million apps line.  From the Twitter blog.

As an ecosystem, we’ve just crossed one million registered applications, built by more than 750,000 developers around the world. This is up from 150,000 apps just a year ago.  A new app is registered every 1.5 seconds, fueling a spike in ecosystem growth in the areas of analytics, curation and publisher tools.

Now many of the changes that have really missed off developers have only been on the last few months, so who knows what the numbers will be in the 4th Quarter, but clearly, there are plenty of people out with idea and needs for interacting with Twitter that is not covered by the current system and important enough to keep up with the changes in the Twitter eco system.  And we should take these numbers with a grain of salt. How many of these million apps are still being used much less being updated to reflect changes with the API?

Twitter has also been investing and improving its developers pages. The new pages are much cleaner and as I’m told by my friends at Twitter, the API docs are more accurate.

  • Discussions – We need a place to talk with each other that gives us more functionality than we have now.
  • Developer Blog – The new blog provides a place to learn about important API announcements, events, tips and how-tos, case studies on great apps, product insights, and more.
  • Better Documentation – The docs have better structure and searchability and should feel more intuitive.
  • Improved Apps Management – The new app manager has a streamlined design that provides more comprehensive information for your app.
  • Enhanced Search – Powered by Apache Solr, searching the new also got a boost. We have a unified search engine with filters and expect results to be more relevant. Also, we can search the archive from our Groups mailing list.

A footnote here, FaceBook has a FAR larger rate of new applications being installed everyday.  However, FaceBook just had it first event of upsetting developers when the story broke of the deep cooperation between Facebook and Zynga.


The following is a post on the Topify site:

A week ago, without any prior notice, Twitter changed their backend resulting in removing headers from their emails which we used to provide you the Topify service. Once I discovered about this change, I asked on their official developers support forum about it and twice sent a mention to @TwitterAPI account. All of these were unanswered until today. Today they finally posted a clarification:

Many of the emails we send have X-Twitter* headers in them, with pieces of information about the event which triggered them. You might have noticed we’ve started decommissioning these headers.

If for some reason you were using these headers programmatically in order to detect / process events, you should stop doing it and switch to one of the means supported by the API. For example, the Streaming API. Please let us know if you needed help or if you had questions!


I considered switching to using the Streaming API in the past, but the only option for Topify is to use the Site Streams version of it. But Site Streams are still in beta, and according to the documentation there is no estimated date for it to exit beta. Considering this last episode and other actions by Twitter in the past year, I have no desire to experiment with their beta offerings. Not only this can result in unstable service for you, they might just shut it down one day.

4 comments on “Topify is now gone. Is there a reason to use to the Twitter API anymore?

  • At some point I too decided to treat Topify as a hobby, but I still feel obligated to fix things the same day. Also, the latest changes required massive rewrite which is far more than I can commit to hobby project right now.

    But in general I agree with you, and I think it can be summarized like this: if you have personal benefit from creating something with Twitter's API – do it. Otherwise, don't.

    Also, I think the 1M apps number is completely meaningless. I don't believe that even 1% of those apps are as sophisticated or valuable as TwittFilter or Topify. Most of them are just bots and other utilities. I personally have about 20 apps registered and I'm sure you too.

    • Thats a really good point Arik. In fact, I was planning on editing this post to point out that a high % of apps are no longer supported. Somewhat like the millions of twitter accounts that do not have 20 original posts.
      The only problem with building for yourself is that RARELY do you build something just for yourself. TwittFilter was very much built just for me back when twitter's web site was only bear bones and no one else out there was trying to deal with twitter over-share. So now I have a small population of people who use the app so I'm torn between only keeping the features and functions that I use 90% of the time running and dump the others, or try to keep everything running for the few who does use those features. Hard call. Right now, I have a switch that hides 25% of the features and functions of twittFiler from other uses just to avoid this issue. Shame really. But on the other hand, Twitter is trying to grow, and they ARE a business, they do not have to back support everything. Life is hard when you are a libra, I always see both sides.
      I have to say this though.. I just wrote a book on programming in PHP for the Twitter API and I've had to rewrite the book twice because of changes with the API.. Grrrr…

      • You should consider open sourcing your app and by this letting others support the additional features. I understand that usually it's easier said than told (to opensource something), but if it might be possible for you, it will be a great benefit to all involved.

        As for Twitter trying to grow, being a business, etc — I understand that and don't expect them to back support anything, BUT I do expect them not to be douches and let us know in advance about changes. And if they forgot to let us know in advance, at least be responsive…

        • It would be nice that all dev who create an app get an email when anything in the API is planning to change. THAT would be useful vs. following the mailing list or blog and having to keep an eye out. For hobbyist, we just do not have that kinda of time.Others have suggested to take my app to opensource. I dont know. The app has gotten so big and complex now, that it would be a pain to clean up the code for others to read. Still, I may do it. Guess I just need something to push me over the fence.Are you going to open source yours?—

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