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Twitter API: Up and Running: Learn How to Build Applications with the Twitter API **---

Twitter API: Up and Running: Learn How to Build Applications with the Twitter API By Kevin Makice
Published April 2009
List Price: $34.99, Your Amazon.com Price: $20.09

Amazon.com Sales Rank: 627,820
Availability: Usually ships in 24 hours

This groundbreaking book provides you with the skills and resources necessary to build web applications for Twitter. Perfect for new and casual programmers intrigued by the world of microblogging, "Twitter API: Up and Running" carefully explains how each part of Twitter's API works, with detailed examples that show you how to assemble those building blocks into practical and fun web applications. You'll also get a complete look at Twitter culture and learn how it has inspired programmers to build hundreds of tools and applications. With this book, you will: Explore every component of a Twitter application and learn how the API responds Get the PHP and MySQL code necessary to build your own applications, with explanations of how these ingredients work Learn from real-world Twitter applications created just for this book Discover the most interesting and useful Twitter programs--and get ideas for creating your own--with the book's Twitter application directory

Twitter offers a new way to connect with people on the Internet, and "Twitter API: Up and Running" takes you right to the heart of this technology. "Twitter API: Up and Running is a friendly, accessible introduction to the Twitter API. Even beginning web developers can have a working Twitter project before they know it. Sit down with this for a weekend and you're on your way to Twitter API mastery." --Alex Payne, Twitter API Lead "Twitter API: Up and Running is a very comprehensive and useful resource--any developer will feel the urge to code a Twitter-related application right after finishing the book!" --The Lollicode team, creators of Twitscoop

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May 07 2009 08:12 AM

Unless you've been living under a rock (and other similar journalistic cliches), you've heard of Twitter. It's the latest way for worker-ants such as ourselves to live vicariously through Oprah Winfrey and Ashton Kutcher in bursts of pure irreducible entertainment -- 140 characters describing what condiments they put on their lunch. Twitter API: Up and Running is O'Reilly's first (and there'll be more, read on) foray into how to talk to Twitter and the functions available to it. It's the full Twitter API coupled with an example-heavy tutorial on how to build a server-side Twitter utility.

380 pages does seem like a lot of text to devote to something as simple as Twitter, and the book does indeed cover much more than just the API itself. And, following that, the book's tone is sometimes a bit too breezy for me. After about 40 pages of the history of Twitter and the mindset of twittering and the genesis of the "fail whale", you're treated to another 40 pages of favorite tools and aggregators and graders, followed by a 50 page tutorial on HTML and PHP and MySQL. While I suppose this might be useful to a novice programmer or a novice to Twitter, it's a fact that a book called Twitter API doesn't actually get to the Twitter API until page 130.

One other thing to note is that this book, like Cinderella's coach, is destined to turn into a pumpkin at midnight. Most of the book is concerned with Twitter's "classic" pre-OAuth API model. And this API model will be on its way out when the new API takes hold. The "classic" Twitter API deals with things in much the same way you imagine that Twitter deals with things internally. That means that if you want to post a tweet or get somebody's message-stream or do anything else interesting with someone's Twitter account, you need their username and password. Contrast this with the model used by Facebook where a client must hand you over to Facebook itself where you grant permission to the app to deal with your account. Rather than have a user's username and password, you have a revoke-able token that can be used to access the account.

It's not an ideal solution and it still allows the possibility of running roughshod over somebody's account, but it's still a more secure solution than handing over your Twitter username and password. And the new token-based OAth API is on its way in. It's already in use in some places. It'll eventually be in use everywhere. And when that happens, the "classic" API will be taken down.

And then I presume that's when Twitter API: Up and Running Second Edition will arrive.

One feature that I quite liked is their chapter on how to search Twitter. One thing that the book points out is that Twitter's search functionality was developed by a third party and was acquired later by Twitter and integrated into their system. Therefore the way you talk to Twitter's search is quite different from the way you talk to Twitter's message stream. While Twitter API: Up and Running could've just stuck with the reasonably consistent RESTful API of the Twitter "core", it does address the search API.

One thing the book desperately needed was a focus on something other than PHP. While the authors do a good job of being language-agnostic in their API descriptions, little mention is made of client-side programming. I understand the need to focus on one language for the major examples so you don't end up with a schizophrenic tutorial that has no completed project at the end. Still, a few examples of how to talk to Twitter via other server and client-side languages would have been welcome. As it stands, the person with grand designs on making the next TweetDeck or phone-based Twitter client wouldn't find the book as helpful as he could, even though a couple of pages on client-side programming could clear up a lot of questions.

If you're a novice who's got an idea for the next great application, and you want to hitchhike on Twitter's coattails to make it happen, then Twitter API: Up and Running will probably get you started. If you're already reasonably experienced in server-side programming or your plans for Twitter revolve around doing something client-side, you might be better off just reading the official Twitter API docs and sample code.