Twitter enacts rate limits on main site

Ronny Kerr · October 4, 2010 · Short URL:

Users encounter ten minute time-outs on new for too many API calls


Every third-party Twitter developer and probably some of their users realize that the microblogging service limits the number of API calls or account actions a user can take, a policy intended to be keep the service up and running as smoothly as possible. Users on the actual site, however, never had to worry about overreaching their limit on API calls.

Now though, users of the new have to deal with those same limitations.

At least one blogger and a bunch of tipsters have experienced short blocks to their accounts, a result of too many API calls.

“I was just tooling around on Twitter curating some Twitter Lists, following new people, etc, and all of a sudden I wasn’t able to do – anything,” writes Chad Catacchio of The Next Web. “ completely shut me down with a pop-up message saying ‘Sorry! You’ve hit your hourly usage limit. Try again soon.’”

Like other users who met the same error screen, Catacchio regained access to the site after about ten minutes.

The problem doesn’t seem very widespread and the brief account outages might be worth it to keep the whole site up. With the redesign rolling out to more and more people, however, it would be good of the Twitter team to publicly announce and explain authoritatively exactly what limits users can expect to be placed on their accounts.

According to the Twitter Help Center, these are the current technical limits for accounts:

  • Direct Messages: 250 per day.
  • API Requests: 150 per hour.
  • Updates: 1,000 per day. The daily update limit is further broken down into smaller limits for semi-hourly intervals. Retweets are counted as updates.
  • Changes to Account Email: 4 per hour.
  • Following (daily): 1,000 per day.
  • Following (account-based): Once an account is following 2,000 other users, additional follow attempts are limited by account-specific ratios. The Follow Limits and Best Practices Page has more information.

Most of these rules clearly target spam accounts and bots, but the API request limit particularly aims at limiting personal usage for the sake of keeping the whole site online.

Over the summer, Twitter had to cut in half, from 350 to 175, the maximum number of allowed API requests from third-party clients. Because World Cup fever managed to bring the site down multiple times in June, Twitter often fiddled with limits in the site’s best interest, sometimes dropping the limit to under 100 calls per hour.

Twitter these days does a much better job of keeping its service online, but it seems to have a long way to go. No user enjoys getting shut out of their social network.

image source:

Support VatorNews by Donating

Read more from our "Trends and news" series

More episodes

Related Companies, Investors, and Entrepreneurs



Joined Vator on

What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.