In the middle of the night, Twitter made an announcement that disappointed a wide range of developers whose research, bots, and apps depend on free access to the platform’s API to function. Twitter announced in a tweet that starting on February 9, Twitter “will no longer support free access to the Twitter API.” Instead, many developers will have to either pay to access public data or abruptly shut down their projects.
Twitter has not yet shared how much its new “paid basic tier” will cost, and the company has only vaguely promised “more details on what you can expect next week.” Thousands of small developers may have to shut down free tools like @ThreadReaderApp or @RemindMe_ofThis, the Verge reported, impacting hundreds of thousands of followers who rely on small developers to build tools that help maximize their engagement with the platform.
Entrepreneur and developer Tom Coates joined many developers protesting Twitter’s announcement. Coates tweeted that, while “it is not unreasonable to want to find a way to charge those developers who extract more value than they contribute” to Twitter, “one week’s notice and no indication of pricing shows Twitter is chaotic and unreliable. No one’s going to build a business on that.”
Another tech entrepreneur and popular commentator, Anil Dash, warned that putting the API behind a paywall “will accelerate the loss of valuable content on this platform (many of the most effective and unique content creators publish via the API) while abusive bots will continue to go around the API, as always.”
Twitter’s most recent blow to small developers comes after the company banned third-party clients like Twitterific and Tweetbot last month. In that instance, Twitter failed to notify developers before removing access. In this case, Twitter has provided very short notice before removing free access to the Twitter API, which could also block academics and activists from continuing their research on the platform, including gathering valuable insights into how the platform is managing misinformation.
When Twitter started banning third-party clients, @ThreadReaderApp posted that its developers were “hoping for more transparency” from Twitter. Currently, that app—which helps Twitter users “unroll” threads in a more readable format—joins others waiting to find out what it will cost to continue operating next week. The Verge noted that premium API tiers start at $99 a month, so the basic tier will likely cost less.
Forbes called Twitter’s decision to remove free access a “cash grab” that will make Twitter a less enjoyable space, with the potential loss of fun bots like @FoxesEveryHour, which just tweets photos of foxes. That bot tweeted to confirm that it will stop operating on February 9, saying, “I don’t earn anything with this bot so I can’t afford to pay, sorry. I will try to find a solution/alternative to this.”
Twitter’s paid basic tier is likely targeting bigger developers accessing the Twitter API to support commercial projects. Those developers will need to evaluate whether the cost—whatever it ends up being—is justified to continue running services.
Meanwhile, users like reporter Alex Goldman have already begun mourning the impending loss of beloved bots, including bots that tweet everything from Boggle games to randomly generated ASCII night skies.