It’s a sad day for our favorite gimmick Twitter accounts, as we might have to soon say goodbye to them. Late Wednesday night, the official Twitter Developer account announced the platform will stop offering free access to the platform’s API (Application Programming Interface) on February 9.
Access to Twitter API v1.1 and v2 will soon be replaced with a “paid basic tier,” which may further cripple third-party support. Twitter API allows third-party developers to access publicly available Twitter data to create bots or apps for the site. We're not just talking about bots like RemindMe_OfThis that basically remind users of tweets they come across; researchers have, in the past, used the API to track online hate speech.
It appears that the developers are trying to capitalize on the sheer amount of data on the platform. As the Twitter Developer account said in a thread, “Over the years, hundreds of millions of people have sent over a trillion Tweets, with billions more every week… Twitter data are among the world’s most powerful data sets.” The new price point for the tier hasn't been revealed. Rather, it was hinted at with the account saying it will give more details sometime next week.
It does appear this is another attempt by Twitter (and its contentious CEO Elon Musk) to make money off the platform. Purchasable APIs aren’t anything new on Twitter, but they’re more geared towards businesses. Enterprising users can collect a bunch of “Tweets posted within the last 30 days” based on a certain query using the Premium Search API, but doing so means paying Twitter up to $2,500 for up to 10,000 requests per month. However, is it a wise move when advertisers have been fleeing in droves?
That isn’t to say the platform will charge developer thousands of dollars to use Twitter’s API to build a bot (we don’t know that yet). It’s entirely possible developers will only have to pay $99 a month or less for access. However, given the recent banning of third-party apps as a part of “enforcing... long-standing API rules” and the $12.5 billion mountain of debt Elon Musk is under because of his Twitter purchase, it’s hard to imagine things will stay cheap.
For mega companies like Google, this probably changes nothing. But for small-time developers, like the ones behind the Ace Attorney Court Bot on Twitter, this spells doom for them unless they can somehow scrounge up the money for the expected high costs.
Update: Twitter CEO Elon Musk has recently hinted at how much the API will cost moving forward, stating the abuse of the free API "by bot scammers and opinion manipulators" as the main reason for this change. He says it'll cost around $100 a month for access with "ID verification". That last part appears to be referring to a recently leaked feature that allows users to upload their legal ID to become verified. So, it also looks like ID-verification on Twitter is real and in the works.
Outcry has been deafening on Twitter. Look through the Developer thread and quote tweets, and you will find nearly 50,000 users criticizing the end of the free API. One user, Luca Hammer, said that “this change will destroy research, activism, and commercial projects” and he’s going to stop “work on non-commercial projects that use the API”. Hammer goes on to say he will “have to re-evaluate which commercial projects are still feasible.” Others bemoan the short notice, calling it “cruel”.
At this point, we would've liked to ask Twitter about this new move; however, their press contact is nowhere to be found. We'll be sure to reach out... if we ever find it.
It is a shame Twitter continues turning its back against developers. APIs are a great way for users to improve a service without the company having to spend time and money developing a new feature. If you’re thinking your hand at making bots with an API on another service, it’s recommended you utilize some endpoint protection to keep you safe.
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Cesar Cadenas has been writing about the tech industry for several years now specializing in consumer electronics, entertainment devices, Windows, and the gaming industry. But he’s also passionate about smartphones, GPUs, and cybersecurity.