Tag Archives: twitter api

Twitter’s new Developer Labs offers beta access to rebuilt APIs

Twitter is finally modernizing its core APIs after seven years of stagnation, and it wants early feedback from developers. That’s why today it’s launching Twitter Developer Labs, which app makers can sign up for to experiment with pre-release beta APIs. First up will be re-engineered versions of GET /Tweets and GET /Users APIs. The first functional changes will come next, including real-time streaming access to the Twitter firehose with the expansion of tweet filtering plus impressions and engagement metrics that were only previously only available in its expensive enterprise API tiers. Twitter will also be adding newer features Polls to the API.

Giving developers longer lead-times and more of a voice when it comes to rebuilding its APIs could help Twitter get more app makers paying for its premium API ($339 to $2,899 per month for just one specific API) and enterprise API tiers (even more expensive). It might also stimulate the creation of dev-made analytics, measurement, and ads businesses that convince brands to spend more money on Twitter marketing. The Labs program and the first API endpoint changes will roll out in the coming weeks. To join, people can sign up for developer accounts, join an email list for updates on the Labs site, follow the TwitterDev account, and start providing feedback.

Twitter’s data and enterprise solutions product manager Ian Cairns acknowledged some of the whiplash Twitter has put developers through in the past, rapidly changing strategies and restricting rate limits in ways that made developers’ businesses unsustainable. For example, last year a change broke many third-party Twitter reading clients. “There are certainly times over the years when the ways in which we’ve managed our APIS . . . have changed and we know some of those have changed in ways that have been disruptive to developers. What we’re doing with the Twitter Developer Labs program is focusing on trying to use that as a vehicle to build trust and make sure we’re having a two-way conversation and that the voice of the people who use our platform the most are driving the future.”

Twitter’s main API hasn’t been overhauled since its release in August 2012, despite a bunch of progress on enterprise and ads APIs in the meantime. The advantage of that is that the old API was optimized for backwards compatibility so developers didn’t have to constantly update their apps, allowing old utilities to survive. But that also prohibited integrating some newer features like Polls. Twitter plans to move to a more regular versioning system where breaking changes are communicated far enough in advance for developers to adapt.

More recently, Twitter announced a streamlining of its APIs that also instituted the paid tiers in 2017. But last year it broke Twitter clients and sold its Fabric developer toolset to Google as part of cost-cutting measures that previously spelled the demise of Vine.  And this year, Twitter has made moves to crack down on API abuse for spamming and services for buying followers. That comes after the Cambridge Analytica scandal rocked confidence in developer platforms and forced their owners to limit functionality in order to preserve safety and privacy.

Developer Labs will act serve as the nerdy brother of the new “twttr” beta consumer app that launched in March to let people try out potential changes to how replies and the feed work. Twitter writes that “Our initial focus in Labs will be on developers who work with conversational data, including academics and researchers who study and explore what’s happening on Twitter, and social listening and analytics companies that build products for other businesses.”

Twitter’s relationship with developers has always been rocky, in large part due to lack of communication. If a developer builds something, and then Twitter either messes it up with API changes or builds a similar feature itself, it can cost a ton in wasted engineering effort. If Labs opens a clearer dialogue with developers, Twitter could count them as allies instead of PR liabilities.

 

Twitter cracks down on API abuse, will charge B2B devs

To prevent its own Cambridge Analytica moment and make sure it’s getting paid for its data, Twitter will audit developers using its APIs. Starting June 19th, Twitter will require developers of any app that calls recent tweets from or mentions a user more than 100,000 times per day to submit their app for review.

If a developer proves they have a legitimate consumer use case, like running a third-party Twitter client or doing research, they’ll be granted free access to the API at the same rate they have today. If they primarily use the data to serve business customers as a B2B tool, like for customer service or social media monitoring, they’ll have to pay to enter a commercial licensing agreement with Twitter with a custom price based on usage. Twitter refused to even specify the range those prices fall into, which won’t win it any extra trust.

Developers found to be breaking Twitter’s policies will be booted from the platform, while those that don’t submit for review will be capped at 100,000 requests per day for the user timeline and mentions APIs. Twitter says it suspended 162,000 apps in the second half of 2018, showing it’s willing to play hardball with developers that endanger its ecosystem.

The goal is “ensuring that our platform is safe and promoting the privacy and safety of our users, and providing a level playing field commercially,” Twitter’s head of site integrity Yoel Roth tells me. “We’re fundamentally different than other platforms that have APIs since almost everything that happens on our service is public. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a deep responsibility to our users.”

This is the second big platform safety move Twitter has made after last year requiring all new developers who sign up to have their use cases reviewed, and get white-listed if they publish more content to Twitter than a normal person could. But that still left all the old developers without proper oversight, which will change in June.

In the past, Twitter has thrashed developers with whiplash by suddenly changing its API policies. That led apps to break, businesses to fold and a perception of Twitter as an unreliable or even hostile place for developers to build. This time, Twitter is giving developers a three-month heads-up to minimize surprise and problems. At a time when developers are becoming increasingly suspicious of Facebook, treating them better so they keep building bonus experiences is a smart move for Twitter.