Twitter to end free API access: All you need to know

The move is another part of Elon Musk's plan to help the social media platform raise revenue

Elon Musk has been making changes at Twitter since taking over the company. AFP
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Twitter has announced that it will end free API access in what is another significant change since billionaire Elon Musk took ownership of the social media platform.

The Twitter development team said it will no longer support free access to both version 2 and v1.1, and that a paid basic tier will be available instead.

“Over the years, hundreds of millions of people have sent over a trillion tweets, with billions more every week,” it said on Thursday.

“Twitter data are among the world’s most powerful data sets. We’re committed to enabling fast and comprehensive access so you can continue to build with us. We’ll be back with more details on what you can expect next week.”

What is Twitter API?

It is described by Twitter as a set of programmatic endpoints that can be used to understand or build a conversation on Twitter.

It allows you to find and retrieve, engage with or create a variety of different resources such as tweets, users, spaces, trends and media. It can also be used to create automated bots.

Basically, APIs are the way computer programmes “talk” to each other so that they can request and deliver information.

The APIs allow people to build software that integrates with Twitter “like a solution that helps a company respond to customer feedback on Twitter”, the company said.

What has Elon Musk said?

He explained that “free API is being abused badly right now by bot scammers and opinion manipulators”.

As there is no verification process or cost, it is “easy to spin up 100k bots to do bad things”, Mr Musk said on Friday.

“Just ~$100/month for API access with ID verification will clean things up greatly,” he said.

What are some of the most popular accounts using Twitter API?

The Possum Every Hour account, which, as the name suggests, posts an image of a possum every hour and has more than 500,000 followers, said that it will cease to exist.

“Hi All, I regret to announce you all that this bot will stop working on 9th of February (Next week) due to new Twitter's API policy. I have no intention on paying Twitter for basic API usage,” it tweeted.

The Thread Reader App is also popular, with more than 600,000 followers. It has been designed to help people read threads more easily.

“To trigger me, you just have to reply to (or quote) any tweet of the thread you want to unroll and mention me with the 'unroll' keyword and I'll send you a link back on Twitter,” it explains on its Twitter page.

Another popular account using the Twitter API is SF QuakeBot, a robot that live-tweets earthquakes in the San Francisco Bay area. It uses data from the US Geological Survey.

Why is Twitter doing this?

Mr Musk has been vocal about the company's financial situation since his $44 billion takeover of the platform in October, saying that it was losing $4 million a day and that it was at risk of going bankrupt.

In December, he likened the company to a “plane that is headed towards the ground at high speed with the engines on fire, and the controls don’t work”.

“Twitter has had a massive drop in revenue, due to activist groups pressuring advertisers, even though nothing has changed with content moderation and we did everything we could to appease the activists,” Mr Musk said in a tweet on November 4.

He has, since October, reportedly fired more than half of the 7,500 employees at Twitter and introduced rampant cost cutting.

Mr Musk also launched a new subscription service, Twitter Blue, to bring in more revenue.

Hundreds of items from the social media platform's headquarters in San Francisco were sold, including a bird logo statue for $100,000.

Another method to raise revenue that has been under consideration is to put popular usernames up for auction, the New York Times reported.

Mr Musk is also moving ahead with plans to introduce a payments feature on its platform. The company has applied for regulatory licences across the US.

It appears to be another step in Mr Musk's bigger plan to create an “everything app” that would offer social media, e-commerce, peer-to-peer payments and FinTech services.

Updated: February 03, 2023, 11:11 AM