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Exceeding the search API rate limit

by Adam Green on December 10, 2011

in Search API

We recently built a cool site called This R That for a client.

Besides having a great UI that my son, Zach, built, it also has a neat architecture for a Twitter search site. The major weakness of the Twitter search API is that rate limiting is based on the IP making the request. While Twitter won’t reveal the actual limit, it is believed to be about 200 an hour. If you build a web page that takes the search request and sends it to a server to do the work, that server’s IP will be capped at the rate limit across all users. A popular site would reach that limit fast.

The solution we used was to do the search with Javascript from within the user’s browser. Then we used Javascript to parse the JSON results and display them as tweet streams. With this model, the IP of the user’s computer is applied to the rate limit. So each user can do up to 200 search requests every hour, or more if Twitter is feeling generous. Any number of users can be running the same web page simultaneously.

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