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Understanding ‘Rate Limit Exceeded’ on Twitter

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Understanding 'Rate Limit Exceeded' on Twitter

I have been receiving an increasing number of inquiries about the Twitter API limit, so I wanted to provide you with a concise overview of what it entails, why it exists, and what can be done to address it.

To regulate the usage of the Twitter API by third-party applications like TweetDeck, Twitter imposes a limit on the number of times it can be accessed within an hour. It’s important to note that this limit applies to your Twitter account as a whole and not to individual applications. In other words, regardless of the Twitter applications you use, you have a total of 100 API calls per hour—it is not 100 API calls per application. It’s worth mentioning that this limit only affects third-party Twitter applications, as the twitter.com website does not utilize its own API, which may seem somewhat unfair, but that’s the current system.

Update: Third-party applications include desktop and web-based Twitter clients, as well as other software where you have provided your Twitter username and password. Surprisingly, this also includes widgets on your blog that display your recent tweets, Facebook Twitter applications that cross-post your tweets to your Facebook status, and similar integrations.

Now, let’s clarify what constitutes an API call. Technically, any operation that communicates with Twitter is considered an API call. However, what truly matters is which API calls impact the limit of 100 calls. To simplify, any call to the Twitter API that requests data contributes to your limit. For instance, when TweetDeck updates the All Tweets, Replies, or Direct Messages columns, each update counts as a single call. Similarly, viewing a Twitter user’s profile incurs two API calls—one for the profile itself and another for the archive of their sent tweets.

On the other hand, actions involving sending data to Twitter, such as posting updates or direct messages, favoriting tweets, unfollowing or following users, do not count toward the limit. You can continue performing these actions even if you have exceeded your rate limit. Additionally, updates related to search, groups, twitscoop, and 12seconds columns do not consume API calls since the data does not directly come from the Twitter API.

If you exhaust your 100 API calls within an hour, you will encounter the “rate limit exceeded” message in TweetDeck, and Twitter will not provide any further updates until the hour has elapsed. The All Tweets, Replies & DM columns in TweetDeck will appear frozen. However, once the hour is up, the rate limit will reset, and you will start receiving updates again. You can monitor your rate limit status in the top right corner of TweetDeck.

To avoid receiving the “rate limit exceeded” message and minimize the risk, there are a few suggestions I can offer, though they may not completely eliminate the issue. It’s important to note that these are recommendations to reduce the likelihood of hitting the limit, but they are not specific to TweetDeck as the limitation is enforced by Twitter itself:

  1. Only use one Twitter application at a time. Even if you are not actively using other applications, make sure they are closed.
  2. Try to avoid excessive use of the refresh button in TweetDeck, as each click consumes three API calls (for All Tweets, Replies, and DMs).
    Update: Consider adjusting the total percentage in the settings window, specifically the Twitter API tab, to around 60-70%. This will result in less frequent updates but will consume fewer API calls.
  3. If you do receive the “rate limit exceeded” message, take note of the reset time displayed in the top right corner of TweetDeck. TweetDeck will not receive any updates until that time, so you can take the opportunity to grab a coffee. However, you can still post messages; you just won’t see any responses.
  4. Additionally, if you encounter the “rate limit exceeded” message, close your Twitter applications and reopen them at the reset time mentioned above.
    Update: A useful tip shared by @warzabidul is to reset your Twitter password on the Twitter website. This can sometimes help resolve limit problems.

I hope this provides you with a better understanding of the Twitter API limit. While it can be quite complex, these guidelines should help you navigate it. Although it may not be an ideal situation, this control is in place to ensure the stability of Twitter’s services.

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