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OAuthcalypse

Posted on Tuesday, 31st August, 2010

Seriously Twitter, you were quite annoying today.

Did you get hit with a dialog box today? Did your tweet aggregator prompt you over, and over, and over again for a password? Did your Tweetie app flat out shut you out?

Yes?

Yea, me too.

Username and password are being requested by Twitter, with the unhelpful message, “Twitter API.” The same dialog box has been popping up on websites all day long.

Twitter apps, including Twitter’s own Tweetie and BlackBerry apps, Seesmic, Tweetdeck and Twitterrific, have all experienced Twitter login problems as well.

Did you type in your name and password again and again and again and nothing happened?
Did you call IT to reinstall Seesmic?
Did you blame it on Mercury Retorgrade?

Yes?

Yea, me too.

Entering your username and password did nothing and won’t make the dialog box go away, it will just keep happening.

Why?

Today, twitter changed they way it handles user authentication for remote sites and programs. Twitter now requires the app use a protocol known as OAuth.

What is OAuth?

I actually just learned of OAuth 2 weeks ago from the Director of Innovation at my company when he was explaining a new authentication functionality he built into a program he had recently updated. The gist: once you’ve authorized Twitter to share your information with another site or app, it hands a token back to that app, and the two communicate back and forth. The new, OAuth-based method is more secure and reliable (for instance, you don’t have to update every Twitter app you use whenever you change your Twitter password, its synergistic).

However, now that Twitter has switched, some websites, programs and apps using the old authentication method are not working properly.

That includes websites using Twitter widgets (which embed the latest tweets from specific Twitter users) with older code as well as apps that haven’t been updated with the new authorization coding.

Wired didn’t name it “OAuthcalypse” for nothing.

Most app developers have spent the day contacting the users of their apps to upgrade, they have known about this for months and most do have updated apps available that utilize OAuth.

To avoid these issues, simply upgrade 3 things.

  1. If you have old widget code on your website, go to Twitter.com and get a new widget embed code.
  2. If you’re using a Twitter app that’s having login problems, upgrade to the latest version.
  3. If you are prompted to update your tweet aggregator- do it!

I, on the other hand still had the original Tweetie app (from way back when the original iPhone 3G model came out, before Twitter bought it and turned it into Tweetie 2, which I never upgraded to and later found out after much searching today for an upgrade, that both are no longer available in the iTunes store) and then 6 hours later eventually netted out with plain ol’ Twitter app.

What a fun filled Tuesday of social handicap. The things we do for 140 characters of instantaneous satisfaction.

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