Twitter makes it easier for businesses, academics, and third-party developers to build on its platform with the launching its API v2 today. The company announced the new API last month, but when the news arrived the day after it was hit by one of the most devastating hacks in social media history, it decided to delay its launch. Notably, Twitter presents the API v2 not only as a way to deliver new features more quickly, but also as a sort of reset in its long and troubled relationship with the app’s developer community.
The API v2 is the first complete rebuild of Twitter’s API since 2012, when the company famously began limiting how third-party developers could build on its product. Before that, third-party developers could more or less replicate and customize the Twitter experience in their own clients. But as Twitter focused more on being advertising company, it apparently decided it didn’t want to split its user base. It slowly began to squeeze out third-party developers, blocking them from new features like polls and group DMs, and directing users to the company’s own apps. Companies died and developers were not happy.
Now, however, Twitter is trying to rebuild some of these bridges. The API v2 provides third-party developers with access to long-absent features from their customers, including “conversation threading, poll results in tweets, pinned tweets to profiles, spam filters, and a more powerful stream filtering and search query language.” There is also access to a real-time tweet stream, instead of forcing third parties to wait for new tweets to appear.
This should mean that after the launch of API v2, third-party Twitter clients such as Tweetbot and Twitterrific will be able to start integrating these features, although there are some caveats.
The big one is that Twitter is reorganizing its API access on three levels. Only the standard, free tier is launching today, and that has limits on the number of API calls developers can make (i.e., how often their software can ping Twitter for data). The next level of access, which Twitter calls “raised,” won’t have the same restrictions, but it will cost users, and Twitter isn’t announcing pricing yet. However, the company says it expects 80 percent of developers on its platform will meet their needs through the base tier.
Before sharing the details, it is difficult to say what changes will happen to external customers, Ged Maheux, co-founder of Twitterific’s parent company Iconfactory, told me. The edge. He says the new API is “potentially very good for third-party Twitter clients,” but Iconfactory is taking a wait-and-see approach until they get to the details, especially pricing.
But Maheux says he and his colleagues are also impressed with Twitter’s conciliatory approach to developers. “Twitter hasn’t been great in recent years and they know it. But they fully acknowledge it and admit it, ”he says. “After being a third or fourth class citizen with Twitter for so long, it’s refreshing.”
However, the new API is about more than just third-party Twitter clients. A whole host of companies and services depend on access to Twitter’s data, including analytics companies such as Spiketrap and Social market analysis, one-off bots such as the House of Lords Hansard bot and Emoji Mashup bot, and power-user tools such as TweetDelete, Block Party, and Tokimeki Unfollow. Twitter also provides an incredibly rich source of data for academics studying large-scale social trends. Researchers use Twitter’s API for a variety of purposes, from measuring tweets’ flood levels to tracking the spread of online hate speech.
Twitter says it wants to encourage more such applications by making its API ecosystem more accessible. For example, a new onboarding wizard reduces the number of fields that third parties have to fill in to get API keys from 10 to just one, while new search tools to find supporting documentation and a new centralized support page make it easier. for developers to find help when they need it.
As Twitter’s Alyssa Reese put it in a blog post about the changes: “You know, we want developers to be moon-eyed when they talk about our documentation. To get error messages that are so helpful, they are almost as pleasant as receiving a handwritten letter in the mail. Our goal is to be a company that other developer platforms refer to when looking for inspiration (and we know we have some way to go). “
Unifying API access should help users too. Previously, Twitter’s API was split into three platforms: standard (free), premium (self-service paid), and enterprise (custom paid). But as Twitter itself admits, the migration between these levels was “tedious”. The new API replaces these layers with “product tracks” in one platform, then splitting these products into the different access levels described above.
While the API v2 is undoubtedly a big launch for Twitter, the company insists that it is a work in progress. It calls the current phase ‘early access’ to emphasize the evolving nature of the API, and it encourages developers to adopt the new public roadmap and give their thoughts on upcoming positions. Thus, Twitter recognizes that resolving a troubled relationship starts with a conversation.