Web & communication software

What's Up With the Search Limits on Twitter?

Why on Earth would Twitter limit the number of Twitter searches a Twitter user may conduct -- a typical user, such as yours truly, not some resource-piggy third-party app or bot?

And, why on Earth would one of the most talked-about companies on the Internet make it so darn difficult to get an answer to such simple question?

Let's start with the first question first: Last Friday afternoon I was doing what Twitter insists it wants me to do, namely trying to find friends and acquaintances who are also Twitter users so that we can "follow" each other's "tweets," those tiny little messages that consume no more than 140 characters. Twitter provides a search box expressly for this purpose.

"Let's see," I would say to myself, "I wonder if my old pal Phil Intheblank is on Twitter." I'd type "Intheblank" into the search box, hit enter, and more times than not turn up nothing. On a few tries I'd find Phil or Bob or Sally and add them to my "follow" list. I did this maybe 15 to 20 times (I wasn't counting) over the course of maybe 15 to 20 minutes (I wasn't keeping track) before getting this message in response to my last query: "Sorry, you've reached your limit on searches for now."

Say what? It's Friday afternoon, news is slow, I'm trying my best to become a good Twitter citizen ... and you're cutting me off like some drunk who just fell off a bar stool? You can stuff your sorries in a sack, Twitter.

Pique and curiosity prompted me to take the next logical step for one seeking an answer to a question about Twitter while actually being on Twitter. I fired this tweet out to my vast (not so much) network of Twitter followers: "Twitter search just told me: 'Sorry, you've reached your limit on searches for now.' ... (Here I used a naughty three-letter acronym for expressing incredulity.) No, seriously, (repeat naughty acronym) A limit on searches?"

I received one reply from a long-time friend/journalist/Twitterer: "I don't understand the search limit. Have you found any coverage of that?"

No was my answer, although I had just started looking for such coverage -- or any kind of an answer. I immediately found nothing directly on point. Scanned the Twitter FAQ and saw some passages relative to limits, but they were about sending messages and interacting with the Twitter API, near as I could tell. As for limiting searches by an individual? If it's in there, I couldn't find it.

Two colleagues who have logged more Twitter time told me they had never encountered or heard of the search limit.

Others have had the pleasure, though, and they are asking the same question: Why? Twitter has another search box that promises you can "See what's happening right now." I entered "limit on searches" and that query turned up two full pages of Twitterers just as baffled as yours truly by this seemingly arbitrary roadblock. Here are a few quotes lodged since my plaintive tweet on Friday:

"I've reached my limit on searches; (There's that naughty three-letter acro again) I'm trying to add my social network; twitter FAIL."

"Apparently I've reached my limit on searches for the moment!"

"Twitter:"Sorry but u have reached your limit on searches for now" Tash:"What?! But... but *cry* why?! Whyyyyy?!""

"Twitter said "Sorry but u have reached your limit on searches for now" ooh, Twitter hates me :'("

I feel their pain, so the hunt for an answer would continue. I don't have any direct Twitter contacts. As noted earlier, I'm new to the service and have never had occasion to interview anyone from Twitter. The Twitter Web site offers no press contact (insert three-letter acro), so I resorted to filling out a user help request via their Web form. I quickly received an e-mail acknowledgement and tracking number so that I could keep up with Twitter's tireless efforts to address my inquiry.

That was Friday. Here on Tuesday afternoon that tracking number is all I have by way of a reply.

There's the telephone, I reminded myself yesterday. But Twitter does not provide any obvious phone number on its Web site (OK, OK, that acro is WTF, but you knew that already). However, I do know how to use The Google and found the digits there with little trouble. Called and got a recorded message: "Hi, this is Twitter. The best way to reach us is by e-mail, contact@twitter.com."

Yesterday I sent an e-mail with my questions about the search limit. Today, no reply.

Which brings us to this blog post. If someone from Twitter should reply via any communications channel whatsoever, you'll be the first to know.

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