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Building the Future of the Twitter API Platform

By Andy Piper
Thursday, 6 April 2017

Twitter’s API platform enables a robust ecosystem of developers and innovators to build solutions using public Twitter data that serve a wide range of needs. Today, we’re excited to announce that we’ll be unifying our API platform to make it easier for developers to build new applications that can smoothly scale as they grow. We’re also launching new APIs and endpoints that enable developers to build on the unique attributes of Twitter to create better experiences for businesses. Developers can see where we’re focusing and what we’re building with our newly-published API platform roadmap.

Why does Twitter have an API platform?

Before we dive into the details, let’s talk about why the API platform is important to Twitter today. Why are we spending time and energy building APIs for developers?

Our API platform enables us, through the help of our developer ecosystem, to serve use cases and encourage innovation that leads to a better experience for everyone on Twitter. Over the years, we’ve seen a wide range of developers build successful solutions — from Sprout Social delivering social media management to over 17,000 brands, to LikeFolio alerting investors to shifts in consumer behavior, to the USGS using Twitter data to track earthquakes, and many more.

As we look ahead, we’re building on this success by launching new APIs and refining existing endpoints in order to help developers innovate for businesses. We see a huge opportunity for businesses to harness the power of Twitter in all aspects of their operations — from responding to customer needs and creating delightful customer experiences to identifying emerging trends, making better products, and more. By supporting developers who are building to address unique business needs, we’ll create new sources of revenue and a better experience for everyone. The value created through these efforts is ultimately good for anyone building on our platform, as it will fund the investments that will support the innovations of tomorrow.

Unifying the API platform

One of the most common requests we hear from developers is for an easy and predictable way to smoothly scale access to Twitter’s APIs. Since 2006, we’ve had a set of broadly available REST and real-time (streaming) APIs that provide access to a range of features and functions. In 2014, we acquired Gnip, a partner who built a suite of enterprise-grade APIs for the world’s largest and most demanding software companies to create solutions with Twitter data. The Gnip APIs provide deeper access to public data from the Firehose and greater functionality than the standard REST and streaming APIs, but have a price point that is often out of range for developers just starting to scale their businesses. As we’ve met and listened to developers at events around the world and in our developer discussion forums, we’ve heard that this can be a source of frustration.

Later this year, we’ll be launching a new developer experience that combines the free and easy access of the standard REST and streaming APIs with the enterprise-grade power and reliability of Gnip. The goal is to create an integrated Twitter API platform that serves everyone, from an individual developer testing a new idea to Twitter’s largest enterprise partners. This will simplify and strengthen our developer platform so that anyone building with us can confidently create and scale their applications, products, and businesses.

In practice, this means the following:

  • Unified API experience: We will streamline APIs, so developers will no longer have to contend with different access and delivery protocols as they scale. This means one API for filtering data from the Firehose; one API for searching the Twitter archive; one API for getting realtime activities related to an account — including Tweets, Direct Messages, Likes & Follows.
  • Scalable access: All of these APIs will provide tiers of access — free access for testing new ideas and building new products; self-serve, paid access that provides increased functionality and rate limits to scale as you grow; and enterprise level access that offers the most powerful functionality for our largest and most strategic developer partners.
  • Predictability: We’ll clearly define the features and costs at each tier so you can determine the right level of access for your needs now and in the future.

New services to build new products and solutions

In addition to unifying our platform, we’ll be launching new services that build on the unique attributes of Twitter to serve the needs of developers building solutions for businesses.

  • Data products: Publicly available data from Twitter data can tell you what the world is thinking in real time. It also represents the largest openly searchable corpus of human conversation in history. Businesses rely on this public data to learn what products to build, how to market them, who their customers are, and what people think of their products and services. We’ll be launching new APIs to help developers build products that can unlock new insights for business.
  • Engagement products: Twitter is a business’ live connection to customers. It’s where people come to talk with and about a business — whether for kudos, complaints, or customer service. Increasingly, it’s also where businesses are coming to build the next generation of customer experiences that combine human service and automation. We’ll be launching new APIs so developers can create applications that help businesses harness this opportunity.

Launch plans and roadmap

As we invest in making this vision a reality, we want to give visibility to our product launches through early 2018. We’ve published an API platform roadmap so you can track our progress and see an overview of the updates we have planned.

Here are a few of the most important things we’re shipping:

  • Today, we launched the Account Activity API, which provides access to real-time events for accounts you own or manage, with delivery via webhooks.
  • Today, we also launched a set of new Direct Message API endpoints that will enable developers to build on the new Direct Message features we recently announced.
  • Later this year, we’ll launch a new set of tools that enable developers to sign up, access, and manage APIs within a self-managed account. This will including the ability to get deeper access and more features, all with a transparent pricing model.
  • We’ll also be shipping a new Search API that provides free access to a 7-day lookback window with more sophisticated query capabilities and higher fidelity data retrieval than is currently available. We’ll also provide a seamless upgrade path to full-fidelity 30-day or full archive lookback windows.

Along with these product updates, we’ll also be providing improved guidance around key areas of the platform, and simplifying our API footprint to help us move faster. Important changes to note include:

  • Today’s update to our automation rules, providing clear guidance to developers building bots and automated experiences on Twitter;
  • A plan to replace User Streams and Site Streams with the Account Activity API;
  • A plan to replace the public statuses/filter, statuses/sample, and search/tweets endpoints with a streamlined API that provides increased access when rate limits are reached.

What’s next?

These efforts represent a massive new engineering and product investment in the future of the Twitter API platform, and in our developer ecosystem. We couldn’t be more excited about the products we’ll be releasing over the course of the next year, and we look forward to talking with you about them in more depth!

As we solidify the details behind each of these initiatives, we’ll share more right here on our Developer Blog, on Twitter, and in our Developer Forums. Look for more soon.

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@andypiper

Andy Piper

@andypiper

Staff Developer Advocate