Thursday, September 2, 2010

How much notice should service providers give their customers when the terms of service change?

One of the cool things about the Twitter service is the fact that they don't send many emails to their subscribers to let them know how wonderful their service is. They have a very unusual attitude in that they expect that the usefulness of their service should be able to speak for itself. Therefore when they sent me an email today entitled "Update: Twitter Apps and you" I decided to actually read the email.

It started out quite well:
Over the coming weeks, we will be making two important updates that will impact how you interact with Twitter applications. We are sending this notice to all Twitter users to make sure you are aware of these changes.
Then I read the next paragraph:
Starting August 31, all applications will be required to use OAuth to access your Twitter account.
At first it sounded reasonable, but then I realised that this email was being sent on 2nd of September!!! I know internet time is different from normal time, but how can they use the phrase "in the coming weeks" to refer to 2 days ago!!

Suddenly the penny dropped and I realised why BlueTwitSidebar stopped working with Twitter yesterday. I pinged the developer of this tool to let him know of the issue, but it turned out that he already knew about it becuase everyone was screaming at him.

Surely this is a very unfair way to treat users by telling them of a significant change in authentication policy after it has already been implemented :-(


  1. agreed that perhaps the wording should be different when the new email gets sent which has passed the deadline, though the oauthcalypse has been a well known thing for a few months now: For something like this, perhaps a little more frequent communication with the registered app owners would have been good to make sure the word got out.

  2. I agree that the change to OAuth is a good idea and maybe I was a little bit out of touch not to have heard it was coming. However, the article says that the change was going to be made on 30th of June while the email says 31st of August (which matches when the application stopped working) so clearly Twitter deserves no brownie points for clear communication.