End Of An Automation Era As Twitter Closes Its Doors To Free API Access

Over the last few months since Elon Musk bought Twitter there has been a lot of comment and reaction, but not much with relevance to Hackaday readers. Today though that has changed, with an announcement from the company that as of February 9th they will end their free API tier. It’s of relevance here because Twitter has become one of those glue items for connected projects and has appeared in many featured works on this site. A week’s notice of a service termination is exceptionally short, so expect to see a lot of the Twitter bots you follow disappearing.

Twitter bot owners have the option of paying to continue with Twitter, or rebuilding their service to use a Mastodon instance such as botsin.space. If the fediverse is new to you, then the web is not short of tutorials on how to do this.

We feel that Twitter will be a poorer place without some of the creative, funny, or interesting bots which have enriched our lives over the years, and we hope that the spam bots don’t remain by paying for API access. We can’t help feeling that this is a misguided step though, because when content is the hook to bring in the users who are the product, throwing out an entire category of content seems short-sighted. We’re not so sure about it as a move towards profitability either, because the payback from a successful social media company is never profit but influence. In short: social media companies don’t make money but the conversation itself, and that can sometimes be worth more than money if you can avoid making a mess of it.

If the bots from our field depart for Mastodon, we look forward to seeing whether the new platform offers any new possibilities. Meanwhile if your projects don’t Toot yet, find out how an ESP32 can do it.

Header: D J Shin, CC BY-SA 3.0.

40 thoughts on “End Of An Automation Era As Twitter Closes Its Doors To Free API Access

  1. Bots are, generally, useless. There are a few that are helpful/fun, but largely they’re garbage. Spam bots are just going to factor the costs in and ramp up the quantity of posts to increase their cost/benefit position.

  2. Its all fine with me,and kinda funny too,I have only accesed
    the net “manualy”,component built computers,running various bootleg and open source software,all with a emphasis on not bieng tracked or offered(ha) stuff I did not ask to see
    and have watched as each trending web app has drawn in
    a huge crowd and then sucker punched them with a slow
    inevitable slide into tedious ,censored, add heavy feeds
    and the minute differences of how each itteration of this
    engages people is not news

  3. I’ve been asking for pay services instead of spyware. I’d much rather pay for products than be the product. The meltdowns over the generally low priced twitter show why we can’t actually have nice things. Too many of you *want* to be the product.

  4. Two things:
    a) this almost sounded like a pro-bot post which is surreal given the blanket condemnation of the things prior to this announcement. So really it’s about whether you like Musk or not. If he keeps bots he’s bad but if he gets rid of bots … he’s bad.
    b) there will be paid-for bots and that will mean there will be a way to ‘following the money’ ie. no anonymous bots
    In any case, except for all the moaning and dripping about the company’s ownership there doesn’t seem to be much different about twitter if you actually followed anyone who hasn’t left.

    1. Almost nobody was ever talking about removing all bots, you’re chasing a non-existant bogeyman in your argumentation. Automation of all forms and shapes have been essential to twitter’s culture, pretty much everyone loved the API.

  5. I suspect this is about legal cases in the EU and Australia and coming to the USA. It means Twitter can show there is an effort to make sure the bot’s sources are identifiable in the same way as paying a small amount for the authentication bird.

    If this is the case and the content it will block is important, it will be very cheap.

  6. What is Twitter ? … Never been over there though. Sites like this are the ‘closest’ I get to ‘social media’. So if they’d all disappear it would ‘ok’ with me — no skin in the ‘game’.

  7. I remember the first time I saw Twitter, I thought “Wow this is a fantastic way for my services to communicate their status to me in a fun way, like a place for my bots to communicate in a way me and all my users can see in realtime!”

    Never really expected actual people to really use it tbh

    1. It’s a shame actually, because I read an article a while back about how twitter *could* have become the world’s IoT information message service, like a global MQTT broker. They missed the boat on that by not realizing what they had and implementing authentication that prevented any old arduino uno from being able to access it. Plenty of services have sprung up to try and fill the void (eg thingspeak) but so far there hasn’t been a true replacement afaik.

  8. ” In short: social media companies don’t make money but the conversation itself, and that can sometimes be worth more than money”

    Ehh, what???

    How many employees get paid in “conversations” and since those conversations that do not match the agenda get silenced the conversations are more like a combination of an echo chamber and a hall of mirrors. “Oooh, all these people think exactly like I do. I must be right”

    Social media companies are all about making money. The interaction is just a tool to get you to come to a site and have ads shown to you.

    I’m sure the FBI was paying a hefty sum to have the, pre-Musk, Twitter employees silence conversation and news stories to manipulate the US elections, too.

    Regardless if Twitter survives or not, Musk buying it was the best thing that could have happened. One less tool to manipulate elections.

  9. Twitter’s API features were previously designed for a particular set of advertisers and agencies that are no longer doing business with Twitter post acquisition. If you’re upset about this development I have reason to assume that you are either not very smart, or you work for one of those groups that stood to benefit from being able to abuse Twitter’s API. There have always been other, better ways to automate workflows.

    1. Getting everyone to use the official app boosts viewership numbers, which is critical for ad revenue. Having all the bots on twitter pretend to be human by using the official app’s keys in order to avoid paying money furthers this aim.

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