New round of Twitter changes might lead to demise of popular accounts

When Twitter said it was shutting down free access to its application program interface (API) last week, developers weren’t shy to express disappointment. Many popular accounts might disappear from the app. Elon Musk is, as always, opaque.

In a post on Thursday morning, Twitter’s developer account announced free access to its API would be cut off and replaced with a paid version from February 9.

What does it mean? The API is in essence a bridge to Twitter data that can be used to create third-party apps, automated bots, or customer service tools for brands. It also allows researchers to report on trends or patterns they see on the platform.

Larger companies already pay for access. However, it remains to be seen whether some of the smaller developers will be able or willing to pay – and they have been busy creating some very popular and useful tools and accounts which can now disappear.

One example is auto-delete services. Twitter itself does not allow you to delete tweets en masse or automatically, so third-party apps such as TweetDeleter – obviously, using Twitter’s API – have rushed to help.

Earthquake bots and other accounts set up to post automatic updates about the weather or issues like COVID-19 also use Twitter API to tweet messages after scraping data from other sites. These accounts are often run by volunteers who might not want to pay.

Many accounts are simply fun and, for instance, post photographs, quotes by famous people, or artwork at regular intervals. One account, Possum Every Hour, has already announced it would cease operating soon.

Finally, many Twitter users love thread readers that help them “unroll” lengthy threads of tweets into a more convenient format. Again, these are mostly run on a volunteer basis and might now be deemed to be in violation of the new rules – whatever they might be.

It’s all a bit opaque. Twitter doesn’t say how much it will charge for basic API access, it also hasn’t clarified whether all users of the API will be affected.

However, on Sunday, in a couple of replies to tweets by other users, Musk said: “I guess we could give all Verified users access to the API. Responding to feedback, Twitter will enable a light, write-only API for bots providing good content that is free.”

Musk, who has been trying to generate more revenue for Twitter, did not clarify what was “good content” and who made such decisions. Twitter no longer has a communications department and is rarely officially releasing statements.

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