Pinboard Blog

Twitter and Pinboard

Yesterday, the popular glue website IFTTT removed the ability to perform actions based on Twitter events, due to their reading of recent changes to the Twitter API. A number of Pinboard users have asked me for clarification about what this means for Pinboard, which offers pretty extensive Twitter integration.

Right now, you can connect up to three Twitter accounts to Pinboard, and have the site automatically store your tweets and favorites. Pinboard also lets you export all your archived tweets in JSON format, and makes your tweets searchable. The service is subject to technical restrictions in the Twitter API (which won't return more than the last 3000 or so tweets), but if you set it up early enough, you can maintain an archive going back arbitrarily far.

Recently, Twitter announced a series of new restrictions on how third party services can display tweets to users. Among other things, the display restrictions would make it impossible to continue to make people's tweets searchable, or link them to associated bookmarks in their Pinboard account.

On August 17, I sent an email to Michael Sippey at Twitter, asking him to clarify Twitter's position on archiving:

Hi Michael,

I read your recent blog post with interest, and hope you can clarify the role of personal archives under the new API rules.

For context, Pinboard offers a Twitter archiving service. Users connect their accounts via OAuth and the site downloads and archives their tweets, along with associated bookmarks. These tweets are viewable and searchable on the site, but are only visible to the owner of the account.

Is it Twitter's policy that the tweet display rules be enforced when people are interacting with their own archived Twitter data, in a private client?

I am still waiting for a reply.

My position is straightforward. I believe users have the right to retrieve their own data from any third-party service for the purposes of personal archiving. I believe that they have the right to view and interact with this data without restriction, as long as that view is private to them. For this reason, I don't intend to restrict Pinboard users' ability to manage their archived tweets.

But I also think it's a little early to hoist the black flag. To me, the most plausible theory is that Twitter just didn't think about third-party backup when drafting the new document.

I am optimistic that Twitter will clarify their terms of service with regard to personal backups. In 2012, it remains impossible for a Twitter user to do a full export from their Twitter account. The only way to effectively store and search tweets is through third-party sites.

I don't believe Twitter wants to have the kind of adversarial relationship with their users that a literal reading of their new terms of service would imply, and I look forward to a constructive conversation about it with them.

—maciej on September 28, 2012

Pinboard is a bookmarking site and personal archive with an emphasis on speed over socializing.

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