How Twitter’s New App Rules & Link Shortener Will Affect Marketers


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You’ve got to love Twitter. They sure know how to confuse people. One of my clients sent me an email she received from Twitter about its new authorization rules for applications and its new link shortener. Her message to me: “Help.”

If you received the same e-mail and are also confused, let me explain what all the fuss is about.

Update #1 – New Authorization Rules for Applications

Whenever you use one of the 250,000 applications for Twitter such as TweetMeme, Seesmic, TweetDeck, fflick or Foursquare, you have to authorize the application to access your Twitter account. As of August 31, Twitter changed how that authorization occurs.

Now, all applications are required to use “OAuth” to access your Twitter account. Twitter says OAuth is a technology that “enables applications to access Twitter on your behalf with your approval without asking you directly for your password.” Twitter says you may still be asked for your password once, but after that initial request, the application must be OAuth to access your timeline or allow you to tweet.

Here’s what this really means: Applications will no longer be allowed to store your password. And if you change your password, the applications will continue to work. The downside is some of your applications may not be working, and you may have to reauthorize some of them. You can view the list of applications you have authorized at: http://twitter.com/settings/connections. You can also revoke access to any application at any time from this list.

Update #2 – t.co URL Wrapping

Twitter’s second announcement involves its link shortening service t.co, which it plans to roll out to all users by the end of this year. Twitter users have turned to third-party providers such as bit.ly or ow.ly to shorten links to articles and websites with long URL’s because of the 140 character limit on tweets.

Twitter says its wrapped links will be displayed in a way that is easier to read, with the actual domain and part of the URL showing, so you know what you are clicking on.

This new service is bad news for third-party providers, since it means more competition. For marketers, t.co opens up a new avenue for analytics, since Twitter will log the clicks people make on these links. However, it’s not clear if Twitter’s analytics will be any better than what a company like bit.ly can provide. Twitter’s comment in the email was a little vague saying, “We hope to use this data to provide better and more relevant content to you over time.“

Here is how the new t.co service will work: Twitter says 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.

In addition, Twitter says when you click on a wrapped link, your request will be passed thru its service to see if the destination site is known to contain malware. Then, Twitter will forward you on to the destination URL. It says this process should happen instantly.

What do you think of Twitter’s move? Will this be a sound edition to their services? Or could it backfire on them, if their analytics don’t provide the information marketers want. I’d love to know what you think.

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