One Reason For Those Twitter API Limits: Search Volume is Soaring

If you’ve been seeing “rate limit exceeded” messages or “API limit” errors in your favorite Twitter client, it might not be caused by the strain all those World Cup tweets are putting on the social network. Twitter Co-founder Biz Stone told the Aspen Festival on Tuesday that the service has seen its search volume climb by more than 30 percent in the past few months alone, with over 800 million search queries being handled every day. In April, during the Chirp conference, CEO Evan Williams said that the network was supporting 600 million queries a day.

Growth of more than 30 percent almost certainly makes Twitter one of the fastest-growing search engines around. Recent Nielsen figures showed that Microsoft’s Bing saw growth of 15 percent in February, giving the software giant a 12.5 percent share of the market. And the new figure of 800 million queries a day puts Twitter at about 24 billion searches a month, which would rank it ahead of both Bing and Yahoo, which handle about 4 billion and 9 billion respectively, according to comScore (Google does around 88 billion a month).

It’s important to note, however — as Ev Williams did when he mentioned the 600 million figure back in April — that Twitter’s search is a somewhat different animal than Google’s or Microsoft’s. The vast majority of Twitter’s search comes through API calls from various clients and services, including all of the Twitter widgets and other plugins and tools that regularly pull updates from the network. That helps explain why the service recently cut its API call limit in half, which has affected a lot of third-party clients.

Twitter recently admitted that its performance has been poor — June was the worst month for the service since October — in part because of the strain created by the World Cup, but the company told Liz and Om that it is working hard to make the network more stable. In addition to the volume of search queries, Twitter has also seen rapid growth in the number of tweets: in May, the service handled 2 billion messages, according to an analysis by Royal Pingdom, which was double the usage it saw six months earlier.

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