Twitter will charge developers to access its API starting February 9th

Developers will soon have to pay Twitter to be able to use its API. The website has announced through its Twitter Dev account that it will no longer support free access to its API, both versions 1.1 and 2, starting on February 9th. It will launch a “paid basic tier” instead, but the company has yet to reveal how much it would cost. Twitter has been experimenting with new ways to make more money ever since Elon Musk took the helm. The biggest change so far has been Twitter Blue, which evolved into a $8-to-$11-a-month subscription service that allows users to purchase the website’s previously elusive blue checkmark. 

A New York Times report from last year said Musk and his advisers also discussed the possibility of adding paid direct messages and videos behind a paywall. They even reportedly considered reviving Vine, its short-form video app that it shut down back in 2016. Musk has been exploring all possible sources of income to be able to pay the loans he took when he purchased Twitter for $44 billion. As The Information notes, he borrowed $13 billion from a group of banks to close the deal, and they weren’t able to sell the debt to investors as planned. The company now has to pay $1.5 billion every year in interests alone.

Twitter showed signs that it had plans to change the way developers accessed its APIs when third-party clients like Tweetbot suddenly stopped working in January. Later, the company confirmed that it deliberately cut off their access due to “long-standing API rules,” even though it previously removed the section in its developer policies that discouraged app-makers from creating something similar to its core service. A few days after third-party Twitter clients went down, the website updated its developer agreement to ban access to its “Licensed Materials to create or attempt to create a substitute or similar service or product to the Twitter Applications.”

“Twitter data are among the world’s most powerful data sets,” the company wrote in a follow-up tweet. “We’re committed to enabling fast & comprehensive access so you can continue to build with us.” While it’s pretty clear that Twitter intends to charge developers to use its API, it didn’t say if it would make exceptions for researchers. Twitter provides specialized access to its API for academic research, and people in academia have been using data from the website for their studies across various fields, including health and politics. 

The website promises to share more details about the new “paid basic tier” for its API next week.

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