It’s a sad day for our favorite Twitter hacks as we may have to say goodbye to them soon. Late Wednesday night, the developer’s official Twitter account announced that on February 9, the platform will stop offering free access to the platform’s API (Application Programming Interface).
Access to the Twitter API v1.1 and v2 will soon be replaced by the “paid basic level”, which may further weaken third-party support. Twitter API (opens in a new tab) allows third party developers to access publicly available Twitter data to develop bots or apps for the site. We’re not just talking about bots like RemindMe_OfThis that basically remind users of tweets they encounter; researchers have used the API to in the past track hate speech online (opens in a new tab).
It seems that the developers are trying to capitalize on the sheer amount of data on the platform. as The developer’s Twitter account said in a thread (opens in a new tab), “Hundreds of millions of people have sent over a trillion tweets over the years, and billions more every week… Twitter data is among the most powerful datasets in the world.” The new price point for the tier has not been revealed. Rather, it was implied that the account said it would provide more details next week.
This appears to be another attempt by Twitter (and its controversial CEO Elon Musk) to make money off the platform. Purchasable APIs are nothing new to Twitter, but they are more than that business minded (opens in a new tab). Enterprising users can collect several “tweets published in the last 30 days” based on a specific query using the Premium Search API, but this means paying for Twitter (opens in a new tab) up to $2,500 for up to 10,000 requests per month. However, is this a wise move when advertisers flee en masse?
This does not mean that the platform will charge the developer thousands of dollars for using the Twitter API to build the bot (we don’t know that yet). It is quite possible that the developers will only have to pay $99 per month or less (opens in a new tab) for access. However, given the recent blocking third-party apps as part of “enforcing … long-standing API policies” and $12.5 billion in debt (opens in a new tab) Elon Musk is in the red for a Twitter purchase, it’s hard to imagine everything will stay cheap.
For big companies like Google, it probably doesn’t change anything. But for small developers like those behind Ace Attorney Court Bot on Twitter (opens in a new tab)this spells doom for them, unless they somehow manage to scramble for the expected high costs.
Update: Twitter CEO Elon Musk (opens in a new tab) recently hinted at how much the API will cost, citing abuse of the free API “by bot scammers and opinion manipulators” as the main reason for this change. It says access with “identity verification” will cost around $100 a month. This last part seems to refer to a recently leaked feature which allows users to submit their legal ID for verification. So it looks like Twitter identity verification is real and working.
The rage on Twitter boiled over. Browse through the developer thread and quote tweets and you’ll find nearly 50,000 users criticizing the end of the free API. one user, Luke Hammer (opens in a new tab), said that “this change will destroy research, activism and commercial projects” and stop “work on non-commercial projects that use APIs”. Hammer goes on to say that he “will have to reassess which commercial projects are still viable.” Others lament the short notice (opens in a new tab), calling it “cruel.”
At this point, we’d like to ask Twitter about this new move; however, their contact with the press is nowhere to be found. We’ll be sure to call back… if we ever find him.
It’s a shame that Twitter still turns its back on developers. APIs are a great way for users to improve the service without having to spend time and money developing a new feature by the company. If you’re thinking of developing bots with an API on another service, we’d recommend using some endpoint protection to keep you safe.