As we told you last week, Twitter dropped a bombshell: they’re going to be discontinuing support for Share Counts in Twitter buttons next month, officially as part of redesigning their social buttons.
Update: Our team worked hard and were able to bring back Twitter share counts in version 1.4.1 of Social Warfare!
There’s been a great deal of outrage and speculation, and it’s only just begun. Upon hearing some of the backlash, it seems that Twitter posted a blog update that attempts to explain their reasoning behind the decision. When you get through some of the misrepresentations (particularly about other button share counts) it becomes clear that they simply do not have the resources to either maintain or improve the current share count api.
For developers, this means they’ll be shutting down the JSON endpoints we’ve used to display accurate Twitter share counts for years.
For the average user of Social Warfare, what this means is that once these counts are officially shut down, it may no longer be possible for us to display Twitter share counts for your posts and pages through our plugin. This isn’t some limitation unique to Social Warfare, either: every social plugin developer is equally at risk of losing this feature, which many users feel is valuable.
Looking for Alternative Solutions
Rest assured we have been exploring every conceivable option for keeping this feature alive since we first learned about this. Unfortunately, any hypothetical ‘solution’ we’ve come up with so far has been a cure worse than the disease, adding significant costs and complexity for both our developers and our users. Even then the results might be suboptimal.
For example it might be possible to rig up a solution using the Twitter Search API. This, however, would at the very least require an authenticated user, meaning we’d need to add an OAuth login to the plugin, which the user would have to enable to allow the app to act on your behalf to use the API. The plugin itself would also need to tally the actual Counts, as the Search API doesn’t do the counting itself. That’s the point: Share Counts are being retired.
Even this is much harder than it may sound, and would add considerable bloat to our plugin code, create more work and additional headaches for our developers, and give you the user more hoops to jump through and potentially more issues to deal with. And even then, we can’t be sure this would deliver the same quality of results, especially with unforeseen technical issues certain to arise.
Any other solution we can imagine requires us to perform upgrades well beyond our financial means. It would require upgrades to our server capacity to host our own homegrown solution, which would also require us to build one of course. That means hiring additional developers, working longer hours, and bringing in an even larger support team to handle customer tickets, and this is all assuming the best case scenario for everything else this effort would entail.
This would inevitably be passed on to you, the user, in a larger activation fee for the plugin, all for the sake of only one network we support.
We built Social Warfare to be lightweight, reliable, stable, elegant, and to offer the best balance of sharing features with sharing optimization and performance, without costing an arm and a leg at even the entry level to purchase, let alone the enterprise level.
If possible, we wish to continue offering you accurate and up-to-date Twitter Share Counts, and our team is still working overtime to find a solution. If one becomes available, and it meets our high standards (the ones you’ve come to expect) without driving our costs and yours too high, then we will certainly implement as soon as it becomes available to us or we can build it ourselves.
Until then, while we hope for the best, we’re also planning for the worst. If displaying Twitter share counts is no longer an option, then we may not be able to do anything about that, but we will do our best to make up for it by giving you options to help soften the blow.
Softening the Blow
We’ve already built in a number of measures to help make this loss of share counts a little easier.
Cached Count Never Decreases
One of the fixes we’ve had to build previously for Pinterest API issues was that when our plugin checks for updated share numbers if it finds that the new numbers are lower than the previously cached numbers (or unreachable) then the numbers will not change. The higher number will remain cached until Social Warfare fetches a count higher than the previous one.
This will ensure that if you have blog posts or pages that have accumulated in the thousands of tweets, those counts will continue to be cached and remain unchanged even after Twitter removes the API support.
Dynamic Minimum Display Counts
Cached numbers not disappearing is great, but what about your new blog posts that don’t have any cached numbers?
We’ve already built in the ability for you to hide your share counts until a minimum number of total shares was reached. Well now you will be able to individually hide those network counts that are zero but still display the network counts that do have shares.
Our buttons will hide the ‘0’ and keep the social icon centered in the button so it doesn’t look off.
Dynamic Button Ordering
One of our newest features gave users the ability to allow the social share buttons to arrange themselves in the order of most shares to least shares. This will allow the buttons with shares to be grouped together at the front while the buttons without shares will be grouped at the end.
While none of these provide an actual solution for the lost counts going forward, they will at least make the impact less harsh.
We don’t have an exact picture yet of what the Tweet Count exodus will involve or how soon it will roll out. What we can say is if you use Social Warfare you’ll be ready for the changeover before it happens rather than waiting for a solution afterwards. And of course we’ll be sure keep you updated as the plan evolves.
In the meantime, if the loss of Twitter share counts upsets you enough, consider doing something about it by letting Twitter know how you feel about this decision.Dear @Twitter, please #SaveOurShareCounts! Click To Tweet
If enough people object, they might change their minds about it. Our team will continue to reach out to Twitter directly to find a solution to this issue, but your help could make all the difference. We alone can’t make Twitter do anything, but together, anything is possible.