The tech world is buzzing (and slightly freaking out) after Twitter announced it will no longer support access to the free Twitter API. Instead, it will introduce a “paid basic tier” option to monetize the platform further.
The Twitter Development team shared the news on Wednesday night via — where else — Twitter.
“Starting February 9, we will no longer support free access to the Twitter API, both v2 and v1.1,” the tweet read. “A paid basic tier will be available instead.”
The team attempted to elaborate on the decision in two follow-up tweets, though they provided few details.
“Over the years, hundreds of millions of people have sent over a trillion Tweets, with billions more every week,” the dev team shared. “Twitter data are among the world’s most powerful data sets. We’re committed to enabling fast & comprehensive access so you can continue to build with us. We’ll be back with more details on what you can expect next week.”
The news instantly drew a wide array of reactions, many of which were somewhat heated.
“What a truly awful idea,” tweeted one user. “So many public information twitter feeds help people go about their daily lives. We don’t get paid to provide these – why would you charge us to help others?”
“RIP hell bird,” added another.
“You haven’t made a single good decision since November, not one,” said someone else, referring to Elon Musk’s recent takeover.
To fully understand where the anger is coming from, it’s important to know how APIs work.
According to the tech site Red Hat, an API (or Application Programming Interface) is “a set of definitions and protocols for building and integrating application software.” These allow tech products like Twitter to communicate with outside apps more efficiently, which then allows those apps to simplify certain processes for users.
On Twitter, this mostly applies to bot accounts run by small developers, which currently use the free API to search and analyze public data to create fun tools for users. These aren’t the “bad” bots we tend to think of that leave trolling, hateful comments on Twitter threads. Instead, they include accounts like @savemyvideo, which allows you to download any video or GIF on Twitter by tagging the bot in a tweet reply.
Other popular bots include @tinycarebot, which sends helpful reminders throughout the day, and @colorize_bot, which allows you to brighten black-and-white photos.
In other words, it’s all pretty useful stuff. But because Twitter currently offers the free API for small-time developers, the new change would mean that the people behind these bots either have to pay a recurring fee to Twitter or risk shutting down.
Needless to say, it isn’t going over well.
“Charging developers for creating features for your own product?” one person tweeted. “lol you should be paying them.”
“Once again pretending to be for equality, but locking previously free features behind a paywall,” complained another person.
Other Twitter users were less annoyed about the proposed pay structure than its announcement.
“Damn, short thread,” tweeted one person. “Almost like you realized it was a bad idea when everyone told you it was dumb as hell.”
“A week’s notice is cruel,” added someone else. “In what world do you think solo developers have the time to make changes on your whims in a weeks time?”
“I think it’s fast coz they’re desperate,” one person declared.
“If it was up to me — I would have had the full plan ready and then communicate it,” someone else tweeted. They argued that the announcement created a lot of unnecessary “commotion and confusion.”
Twitter users are still waiting for more details on what this new pay structure will look like. But if the new changes happen on time, it won’t be much longer until we see how this all plays out.
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