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The Twitter API Platform’s Future

Twitter today disclosed future plans for its API platform and published a public roadmap where developers can track the company’s progress.

One of the most significant changes announced is that later this year the company will be unifying its API platform, combining the strengths of its Gnip APIs with its more affordable REST and streaming APIs. This will simplify the platform and provide more powerful APIs at, in theory, lower costs to developers with smaller-scale needs – though pricing plans have not been announced at this point.

The announcement post contains many details on the API platform’s future, but a few specific things are highlighted which launch today or in the short-term future:

  • Today, we launched the Account Activity API, which provides access to real-time events for accounts you own or manage, with delivery via webhooks.
  • Today, we also launched a set of new Direct Message API endpoints that will enable developers to build on the new Direct Message features we recently announced.
  • Later this year, we’ll launch a new set of tools that enable developers to sign up, access, and manage APIs within a self-managed account. This will including the ability to get deeper access and more features, all with a transparent pricing model.
  • We’ll also be shipping a new Search API that provides free access to a 7-day lookback window with more sophisticated query capabilities and higher fidelity data retrieval than is currently available. We’ll also provide a seamless upgrade path to full-fidelity 30-day or full archive lookback windows.

Twitter’s openness regarding its plans should be an encouragement to anyone who depends on third-party Twitter clients like Tweetbot or Twitterrific. The Direct Message API, for example, will now support media attachments like the official Twitter app.

Although it may be some time before we see today’s announcements bring specific benefits to third-party apps, Twitter has had a rocky relationship with developers in the past, and today’s announcement is a sign of commitment to its API platform and developers.

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Third-Party Twitter Clients Remove Features as API Changes Loom

The latest chapter in Twitter’s contentious relationship with third-party developers is coming to a close. In April 2017, Twitter announced plans to eventually deprecate certain parts of its API that third-party apps rely on.

Fast forward one year to April 2018, roughly 10 weeks before the scheduled API transition of mid-June. Twitter’s new API still hadn’t been made available to third-party developers. The Iconfactory, Tapbots, and other makers of Twitter clients created a website called Apps of a Feather…Stick Together to explain how the looming changes would affect customers. The ensuing uproar among users caused Twitter to delay the API transition until tomorrow, August 16, 2018. Although Twitter has not flipped the switch on the changes yet, apps like Twitterrific and Tweetbot have already taken steps to deal with the changes.

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Twitter Announces New End-of-Life Date for APIs and Pricing That Affects Third-Party Apps

In April, Twitter delayed a transition to a new API that was expected to have a significant impact on third-party Twitter clients like Twitterrific and Tweetbot. The delay came in the wake of an outcry from users of third-party Twitter clients prompted by developers who banded together to encourage users to complain to Twitter about the API changes that were set to take effect on June 19, 2018. Today, Twitter announced that those changes would go forward on August 16, 2018 – about two months later than originally planned.

Yesterday, in an interview with Sarah Perez of TechCruch, Paul Haddad of Tapbots, the maker Tweetbot, said:

“Twitter has a replacement API that – if we’re given access to – we’ll be able to use to replace almost all of the functionality that they are deprecating,” he explains. “On Mac, the worst case scenario is that we won’t be able to show notifications for Likes and Retweets. Notifications for Tweets, Mentions, Quotes, DMs and Follows will be delayed one to two minutes,” Haddad adds.

He also says that Tweets wouldn’t stream in as they get posted, but instead would come in one to two minutes later as the app would automatically poll for them. (This is the same as how the iOS app works now when connected to LTE – it uses the polling API.)

In addition to announcing transition date, Twitter announced pricing for its new API, and it’s expensive. A subscription covering 100-250 users will cost $2899/month, which works out to over $11 per user for 250 users. Anyone with over 250 users, which would include all the major third-party Twitter clients, is advised to contact Twitter for enterprise pricing. However, the pricing on the API’s lower tiers doesn’t leave much room for optimism.

Third-party clients that can’t or don’t want to pay those prices will have to make do without timeline streaming and push notifications for likes and retweets. Other notifications will be delayed approximately 1-2 minutes according to statements by Haddad to TechCrunch.

For its part, Twitter has made it clear, that the functionality of the old APIs will not be coming to the new APIs:

“As a few developers have noticed, there’s no streaming connection capability or home timeline data, which are only used by a small amount of developers (roughly 1% of monthly active apps),” writes Twitter Senior Product Manager, Kyle Weiss, in a blog post. “As we retire aging APIs, we have no plans to add these capabilities to Account Activity API or create a new streaming service for related use cases.”

We contacted The Iconfactory, the maker of Twitterrific, and Tapbots,1 the maker of Tweetbot, to ask about the impact of the API changes on third-party clients and Twitter users. According to Iconfactory developer Craig Hockenberry:

A lot of functionality that users of third-party apps took for granted is going away. That was the motivation for the apps-of-a-feather.com website - to soften the blow of this announcement.

Hockenberry elaborated that The Iconfactory has reached out to Twitter regarding enterprise pricing for the new APIs, but says that he doesn’t anticipate the pricing will be affordable absent a significant discount.

On the one hand, this latest blow to third-party Twitter clients may be something that some users, including me, are willing to tolerate. On the other hand, this is yet another example of third-party client hostility demonstrated by Twitter stretching back at least five years that doesn’t bode well for the long-term viability of those apps. I asked Hockenberry what he thinks the changes mean to third-party Twitter apps. His response:

Long term, I don’t think there will be any apps other than the official one. I also don’t think Twitter realizes that many long-time users, who are highly engaged on the service, are also the people who use third-party apps. These folks will look elsewhere for their social media needs.

Given Twitter’s repeated hostility towards third-party clients, that’s a hard sentiment to argue against and one that gets my attention more than Twitter’s announcement. I can live with the latest changes to Twitter’s API, but if third-party developers conclude that their time and resources are better spent elsewhere, I expect the end of the Twitter I know and use today is closer than I thought.


  1. As of publication of this post, Tapbots has not responded to our inquiry. ↩︎

Twitter Delays Transition to New API That Threatens Third-Party Clients

Last April, Twitter announced that it would deprecate parts of its API that third-party Twitter clients rely on for their apps. Originally, Twitter planned to replace the functionality with a new Account Activity API on June 19, 2018. The trouble is, Twitter hasn’t provided third-party developers with access to the new API, which jeopardizes core functionality of those apps.

With the API transition looming, the makers of Twitterrific, Tweetbot, Talon, and Tweetings created a website to alert their users about the impact the changes to third-party Twitter clients:

After June 19th, 2018, “streaming services” at Twitter will be removed. This means two things for third-party apps:

  1. Push notifications will no longer arrive
  2. Timelines won’t refresh automatically

If you use an app like Talon, Tweetbot, Tweetings, or Twitterrific, there is no way for its developer to fix these issues.

We are incredibly eager to update our apps. However, despite many requests for clarification and guidance, Twitter has not provided a way for us to recreate the lost functionality. We’ve been waiting for more than a year.

The site encourages users to express their feelings about the situation to Twitter’s developer account with the hashtag #BreakingMyTwitter.

The response from unhappy Twitter users was swift. By the end of the day, Twitter announced that it would delay the API transition to an unspecified date in the future and provide at least 90 days notice to third parties before shutting down the old APIs.

Although it is good news that Twitter’s transition to the Accounts API has been put off, it doesn’t solve the issues that it raises for third-party developers.

Tension between Twitter and third-party developers isn’t new. Still, when Jack Dorsey returned to Twitter as CEO in 2015, he said he wanted to repair relationships with developers. It’s impossible to know if this latest episode represents a strategic shift for Twitter or mere indifference toward third-party developers. Either way, it’s a shame to see third-party Twitter clients, which pioneered many features that users love, under threat yet again.


Twitter Rolls Out Full-Archive Search API

Twitter has added support for full-archive search to their API, allowing – in theory – third-party clients to retrieve every tweet ever posted on the service. From their blog:

The Full-Archive Search API combines the best aspects of two of Gnip’s most popular offerings to solve enterprise business needs with user experiences not previously possible. By pairing instant accessibility with the full archive of historical Tweets, we’ve created a new premium solution for our ecosystem of partners to deliver historical social data to their own clients.

Since Twitter added full-archive search to their app last year, I’ve been using the feature every day to find old stuff I or others tweeted in the past. There’s no word on pricing for Gnip customers, but hopefully apps like Tweetbot and Twitterrific will be able to take advantage of it. Developer documentation is available here.

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An API To Keep Track Of User Position in Twitter Timeline

An API To Keep Track Of User Position in Twitter Timeline

I use Hibari on my desktop, Twitter on my iPhone, and rotate between Twitter and Twitterrific on my iPad. And the experience of Twitter client hopping sucks. That’s because when I switch from one to the other, no client has any idea where I left off in the other. I either skip chunks of tweets against my will, or need to scroll through oodles of tweets I’ve already read.

There’s a better way. And it shouldn’t be on the customer’s side to deal with. This is a problem Twitter developers can and should solve.

I’m proposing — and hosting — an API through which different Twitter clients could painlessly keep track of where users are in their timelines.

Developers: please start supporting this.

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Twitterrific 6 Brings Media Enhancements, New Themes and Display Customizations, and More

It’s been nearly seven years since Twitterrific 5 launched on the App Store, and so much about Twitter has changed since then. One major shift is the seismic increase in media shared on the platform; as our devices and data speeds have gotten faster, so too have the amount of GIFs, images, and videos we share online grown. While Twitterrific has certainly done its fair share of adapting for the times in previous updates, adding improved media controls and the like, today Twitterrific 6 introduces the most significant updates for the app’s media experience to date. There’s a new GIPHY integration, autoplaying videos and GIFs in the timeline, and a lot more. Added to that, users can now customize their Twitterrific experience in fresh ways thanks to additional themes, icons, and a new font.

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Connected, Episode 242: An Incredible Critique of Modern Capitalism

Warren Buffett and Tim Cook star in a new iPhone game, Stephen and Myke tried the official Twitter app for a week and Federico is exporting his notes. Elsewhere, Mark Gurman has reported on iOS 13 and new versions of macOS and watchOS.

A very special episode of Connected this week, which also includes some details on my Evernote experiment and our thoughts on recent iOS 13 rumors. You can listen here.

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Using a Twitter Saved Search to Read Replies, Mentions, and Quoted Tweets in a Single View

Every few months, I like to use Twitter’s official app for iPhone and iPad for a while and reassess its advantages over third-party clients, as well as its shortcomings. This is something I’ve been doing for several years now. While I’ve often come away unimpressed with Twitter’s native offerings, switching back to Tweetbot or Twitterrific after a couple of days, it’s been a week since I started using the official Twitter app on my iPhone and iPad again and I don’t find myself craving Tweetbot’s UI design or timeline as much as I thought I would.

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