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Twitter is on the attack against Substack

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I personally thought the big Twitter drama of the week was going to be the company’s move to replace its long-delayed free API tier with a “paid basic tier” — but then, Twitter decided to pick a major fight with Substack.

Well, maybe Substack technically started it. The company announced a new Twitter-like Notes feature on April 5th. But a day after, Twitter started taking steps against Substack, first by blocking Twitter embeds in Substack stories. Then, it severely limited how you could engage with many Substack URLs on Twitter and then limited how you could engage with Substack’s actual Twitter account.

It’s all a big mess, and it’s somewhat burying what could be very real impacts on the Twitter ecosystem as a result of the API changes. Popular Twitter bots like the Thread Reader App have relied on that free tier, for example, but they may now be forced to pay potentially exorbitant prices or cease operations entirely.

The fabric of Twitter already changed dramatically after the company banned third-party clients in January. With the API shifts making things harder for bots and prominent Twitter users / Substack writers promising to leave, things are changing even more rapidly than expected.

  • Maybe Twitter shouldn’t have shut down Revue?

    Twitter wants to let users offer newsletters as part of the company’s rebranded Subscriptions offering. That would have been a lot easier to do if it hadn’t just closed its own newsletter platform!

  • Apr 13

    Jay Peters and Emma Roth

    Twitter is rebranding Super Follows to Subscriptions

    Twitter bird logo in white over a blue and purple background
    Illustration: Alex Castro / The Verge

    Twitter is rebranding its “Super Follows” feature, which lets you subscribe to individual users to get access to some exclusive content, to just “Subscriptions.” Twitter owner Elon Musk promoted the feature on Thursday, noting that you can find it in the “Monetization” section of settings.

    Super Follows were first announced in February 2021, and as far as we can tell, the rebranded Subscriptions have many of the same features. With Subscriptions, you can charge users so they can get access to things like exclusive tweets, subscriber-only Spaces, and special subscriber badges. Down the line, Twitter says that it hopes to include “newsletters and other Twitter features as potential bonus content.”

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  • Substack launches its Twitter-like Notes just days after Twitter throttled Substack links

    A screenshot of Substack’s Notes feature.
    Yep, that looks like Twitter.
    Image: Substack

    Substack’s Twitter-like feature for shorter posts, called Notes, is launching for everyone on Tuesday. Notes could prove to be a worthy Twitter alternative for some, especially for Substack writers who have already built audiences on the platform and are looking for a new place to post after Twitter throttled Substack links and marked them as unsafe.

    Substack’s Notes will appear in their own separate tab, meaning they’ll be separate from the full newsletters you can read in the Inbox tab or the threads you can read in the Chat tab, where you can read newsletters. In a blog post, Substack suggests using Notes to share things like “posts, quotes, comments, images, and links,” and there is no character limit, Substack spokesperson Helen Tobin tells The Verge.

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  • Elon Musk tweets then deletes DMs from Matt Taibbi over his Substack snit

    A photo illustration of Elon Musk looking pensive.
    Illustration: Kristen Radtke / The Verge; Getty Images

    Elon Musk and one of his “Twitter Files” writers, Matt Taibbi, don’t seem to be on great terms right now, and that situation probably isn’t getting any better after Musk posted then deleted a DM conversation between the two of them.

    Let me try to recap how we got to this point. I’m warning you now that it’s a bit of a mess.

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  • Substack says Twitter is no longer throttling links to newsletters.

    Searching for “Substack” still results in a search for “newsletter,” though. This is the dumbest chapter in content moderation history.

  • Substack CEO pushes back at Elon Musk, says Twitter situation is ‘very frustrating’

    Quick recap: Substack, the popular subscription newsletter platform for writers, launched a new feature in its app called Notes last week, which is fairly similar to Twitter.

    Twitter, the world-historical clown car of a company currently operated by Elon Musk, responded by blocking the ability to like or retweet any posts containing the word “Substack,” throwing up a warning message if users clicked on Substack links, and finally blocking even the word Substack from being searched. Substack users, the vast majority of whom are independent small business owners who depend on Substack as an enterprise software provider, mostly responded to this by saying they would leave Twitter and use Substack Notes. (There’s more here, but it’s a combo platter of hilarious and tiresome given some of the personalities involved. Just click the links.)

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  • Twitter is now redirecting searches for “Substack” to “newsletter.”

    Imagine being the engineer assigned to being this much of a baby! I discovered it because it’s implemented so bluntly: even the word “substack” in a URL slug is blocked, so searching for this piece this morning didn’t work. Truly, this is free speech at its most democratic.

  • Twitter is now marking Substack links as unsafe

    A black Twitter logo over a red illustration
    Illustration: Alex Castro / The Verge

    Twitter has started marking links to Substack as unsafe. If you click on a link on Twitter with in the URL, Twitter will show a separate notice warning you that “the link you are trying to access has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially spammy or unsafe.”

    Don’t be alarmed — the links we’ve checked appear to be perfectly safe. This notice seems instead to be Twitter’s latest hostile move toward Substack after the email newsletter platform announced its own Twitter-like “Notes” feature on Wednesday.

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  • One of Elon’s handpicked ‘Twitter Files’ writers quits Twitter over its Substack restrictions

    Elon Musk gives a thumbs-up while smiley faces melt in the background
    Illustration by Kristen Radtke / The Verge; Getty Images

    Matt Taibbi has announced that he’s leaving Twitter amid the company’s ongoing spat with newsletter platform Substack.

    If Taibbi’s name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, perhaps the phrase “Twitter Files” might. Using access granted by Twitter CEO and self-avowed free speech enthusiast Elon Musk, Taibbi and other journalists have shared internal Twitter information that was intended to reveal how corrupt the company’s previous leadership was. (What they actually revealed was Jack Dorsey’s personal email address and some sloppy journalism. Oops.)

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  • The light of consciousness shall not extend to Substack.

    This tweet gets funnier every day. Jack really played Elon into cashing him out for $44 billion dollars with this wacked-out hippie cringe game, didn’t he?

  • Substack writers say Twitter’s newsletter ban is bad for business — and worse for Twitter

    An illustration of the Substack logo.
    Illustration by The Verge

    This week, Twitter began restricting the promotion of links to Substack newsletters, a move that seems to fly in the face of owner Elon Musk’s vocal support of free speech on the platform. The change is a huge problem for Substack writers, who have found Twitter to be one of the best places to attract new subscribers to their newsletters.

    “It appears that Musk is making decisions based on his own financial interests and petty grievances — even if it makes Twitter objectively worse for users,” Judd Legum, author of Popular Information, a politics-focused newsletter with more than 240,000 subscribers, says in an email to The Verge. “If this continues, it’s hard to justify continuing to invest my time creating content on Twitter.”

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  • Substack founders fire back at Twitter over restrictions and rules that ‘change on a whim’

    Illustration of a black Twitter bird in front of a red and white background.
    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

    Substack’s founders have responded to Twitter’s new restrictions on promoting tweets with links from the publishing platform, telling The Verge that writers’ livelihoods “should not be tied to platforms where they don’t own their relationship with their audience, and where the rules can change on a whim.”

    On Thursday night, Twitter users noticed that they couldn’t like, reply to, or retweet some tweets that had Substack links in them. Twitter hasn’t said why it made the change — or if the change was even intentional — but the timing is certainly suspect, given that it happened about a day after Substack announced its own Twitter-like “Notes” product.

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  • Twitter now disables likes, replies, and retweets if a tweet has Substack links

    Twitter bird logo in white, over a red and black background.
    Illustration: Alex Castro / The Verge

    Writers trying to embed tweets in their Substack stories are in for a rude surprise: after pasting a link to the site, a message pops up saying that “Twitter has unexpectedly restricted access to embedding tweets in Substack posts” and explaining that the company is working on a fix.

    After those reports surfaced, between Thursday night and Friday morning, Twitter apparently began to restrict promotion and visibility for tweets with links to Substack posts. New tweets linking directly to can still be tweeted, but trying to retweet or like those tweets via Twitter’s website results in an error message saying, “Some actions on this Tweet have been disabled by Twitter,” while doing the same from within its apps or TweetDeck appears to work while failing silently.

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  • The sudden death and rebirth of Tweetbot

    Image: Mengxin Li / The Verge

    I had a corpse on my phone, and I kept checking in on it. Ever since January 12th, my preferred iOS Twitter app had been locked in stasis, frozen on an error modal informing me that “there was a problem authenticating with Twitter,” and wow, was there ever. Without any notice, Twitter had revoked the mainline access credentials for Tweetbot and every other third-party client not operated by Twitter itself. 

    Unlike many decisions made during Twitter’s “vox populi” Roman cosplay era, there had never been a poll about this. Elon Musk had never appeared deep in a thread with Kevin Sorbo and a spartan avatar burner account to say, “Yikes, third-party apps should go.” Instead, Twitter took several days to communicate with its users or commercial partners and admit that the move was deliberate, eventually releasing a “your fault”-style official tweet gnomically explaining that “Twitter is enforcing its long-standing API rules.” 

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  • Twitter announces new API pricing, posing a challenge for small developers

    An illustration of the Twitter logo.
    Illustration: Alex Castro / The Verge

    Twitter has formally announced its revamped API tiers a month and a half after new CEO Elon Musk promised a big shake up of the system. In a thread, the company’s official developer account listed three tiers — free, basic, and enterprise — and provided some details on their prices and read and write limits. It also linked to signup pages, which offer links to get started with the first two tiers, and to express an interest in the third.

    The company says older tiers will be deprecated “over the next 30 days.” Here’s a short summary of the three replacements (which can also be found on Twitter’s website): 

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  • Twitter’s API access continues to be a mess.

    Apparently some researchers are being told that they could have to pay at least $500,000 a year to access a tiny portion of Twitter’s data. I recommend being skeptical about anything this company says until it actually happens, but given all its shenanigans around API access, this wouldn’t exactly be surprising.

  • Twitter’s new API is still on its way.

    Last week Twitter announced that it wouldn’t shut down its free API until today, and that it’d be replaced by a new system with a limited free option and a $100 a month plan. Now, the company says that update won’t be coming until... sometime, and that eventually there will be more details. I’d take that with a grain of salt.

    Screenshot of a Tweet posted at 3:43PM ET on February 13th from @TwitterDev, reading: “There has been an immense amount of enthusiasm for the upcoming changes with Twitter API. As part of our efforts to create an optimal experience for the developer community, we will be delaying the launch of our new API platform by a few more days.  More information to follow over the coming days. Thank you for your continued interest and patience!”
  • Elon Musk says bots with ‘good content’ can use Twitter’s API for free

    Elon Musk in front of the Twitter logo.
    Illustration by Kristen Radtke / The Verge; Getty Images

    Elon Musk says Twitter will let bots providing “good content” access the Twitter API for free. As noted in a post on Twitter, Musk announced that the platform will enable a “light, write-only” API for eligible bots — a partial reversal of his policy that puts API access behind a paywall.

    After shutting down third-party clients, like Tweetbot and Twitterrific, Twitter announced last week that developers will need to sign up for a “paid basic tier” to access Twitter’s API starting on February 9th. At the time, Musk justified the move by saying that the free API is “being abused” by bot scammers and spammers, adding that an around $100 per month subscription “with ID verification” can “clean things up greatly.”

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  • PSA: Twitter’s API changes may make it difficult to log in to your favorite games

    Screenshot from Genshin Impact featuring a large dragon roaring at an ensemble cast of Genshin Impact characters
    Image: Mihoyo

    Elon’s messing up the game — literally. Two extremely popular online games, Arknights and Genshin Impact, have warned that players who use Twitter to log in may be affected by Twitter’s pending API changes.

    “We are in the process of confirming the impact of the Twitter API adjustments on game account login and the corresponding resolutions,” read the tweet on Genshin Impact’s official Twitter account. “To prevent possible account login problems, we recommend going to the HoYoverse Account page to link your email address for account logins.”

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

    A black Twitter logo over a red illustration
    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.”

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