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Twitter replaces its free API with a paid tier in quest to make more money

Twitter replaces its free API with a paid tier in quest to make more money


The platform will soon introduce a ‘paid basic tier,’ with more details expected sometime next week.

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Thousands of small developers have created useful tools that utilize Twitters free API access, which are now in danger of being shut down.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Twitter will no longer provide free access to the Twitter API from February 9th. As announced by the official Twitter Developer account late Wednesday night, Elon Musk’s social media hobby will stop supporting free access to the Twitter API and will instead provide a “paid basic tier.” Twitter hasn’t provided any information regarding pricing, but said that it will provide “more details on what you can expect next week.” 

“Over the years, hundreds of millions of people have sent over a trillion Tweets, with billions more every week,” said the Twitter Developer account. “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.”

Twitter’s API — abbreviated from Application Programming Interface — allows third parties to retrieve and analyze public Twitter data, which can then be used to create programmable bots and separate applications that connect to the platform, such as Pikaso, Thread Reader, and RemindMe_OfThis. Twitter currently provides limited free access to its API alongside premium, scalable tiers for developers that need to lift restrictions on accessing endpoints and unlock additional enterprise features. Twitter does not publicly disclose the price of its premium API tiers, though it was reported in February last year that fees start from $99 a month and increase depending on the level of access required.

The decision to remove free access to Twitter’s API follows the platform updating its developer rules to ban third-party clients, causing popular third-party Twitter apps like Twitterrific and Tweetbot to abandon the platform.

Many small developers have used Twitter’s free API access to create fun tools and useful bots like novelty weather trackers and black-and-white image colorizers which are not intended to earn income or turn a profit. As a result, it’s likely that many bots and tools utilizing Twitter’s free API access will need to charge a fee or be shut down. It would also impact third parties like students and scientists who use the platform to study online behavior and gather information for research papers.

On Thursday afternoon, Musk claimed that the free API “being abused badly” by “bot scammers” and “opinion manipulators.” He believes that “Just ~$100/month for API access with ID verification will clean things up greatly,” but we’ll have to wait and see if that pans out once free access goes away.

Musk has made efforts to increase revenue and boost Twitter monetization since purchasing the platform for $44 billion last year in order to pay off loans and clear a mountain of debt. These include laying off almost two-thirds of Twitter’s staff, locking user verification behind an $8 monthly subscription to Twitter Blue, and even selling off company assets following the closure of Twitter offices, allegedly after also failing to pay rents.

Update February 2nd, 6:46PM ET: Added tweet from Elon Musk.