Home / Companies / News /  Twitter to stop free API access - What does this mean and will it affect users?

Changes at Twitter continued into the new year, with officials announcing that its application programming interface would go behind a paywall from next week. The move could potentially affect a host of services - including popular bots that make automated posts on the platform.

What is Twitter API?

As the Twitter website explains, its API is a set of programmatic endpoints that can be used to understand or build the conversation on the social media platform. It allows software developers to find, retrieve, engage with or create several different resources including tweets, users, spaces and direct messages.

Put more simply, it is akin to a set of instructions that tell a program how to interact with the social media platform. As such, people can utilise it to build software that in turn allows them to perform different functions on Twitter.

Developers can also use the Twitter API to access data for ad campaigns, creating targeting criteria and pulling trend analytics.

What is the latest development?

From February 9 this month, Twitter will no longer support free access to its API - both v2 and v1.1.

“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. 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," the Twitter Dev account posted earlier this week.

While the official account assured that further details would be provided next week, it is not yet clear how much these new paid tiers would cost. New owner Elon Musk however tweeted on Friday that “just approximately $100 per month for API access with ID verification" would help ward off bot scammers and opinion manipulators.

How will this affect regular social media users?

While this will in no way affect your ability to post a tweet or see, like and share various updates, there may be some other repercussions. Many speculate that the the end of free access would also bring about the end of several useful bots.

Developers will either have to pay a fee or completely stop their projects from February 9 - impacting hundreds of thousands who use these tools to build engagement on their own platforms. According to reports, the change could affect countless bot accounts - from those used for journalism tools to flag stories like @Dataminr to those used to monitor and flag hate speech.

Some such as @folklorebot (a Taylor Swift bot account) and Alt Text Reader (a bot that can can be tagged under any Twitter image to reveal its alt text) have already indicated that they will cease to function if the 'free' option is removed.

Elon Musk however insists that the free API system was being ‘abused badly’ by bot scammers and opinion manipulators.

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