On Friday, Twitter released an upgrade that should vastly enhance the experience inside third-party Twitter apps: it’s providing developers substantially greater access to Twitter’s reverse-chronological timeline. This next (and, in my opinion, positive) step in Twitter’s drive to better help developers is this change to the newly introduced API v2, the interface that developers use to receive data from Twitter.
According to Twitter, the new API v2 functionality lets developers “retrieve the most recent Tweets and Retweets posted by the authorized user and the accounts they follow.” In other words, a developer can request to access the data that Twitter displays when you open a third-party app and pick the “Latest Tweets” option so that their app can display it instead.
The capability (or “endpoint” in developer speak) is especially useful for third-party clients like Tweetbot. According to Twitter’s statement, one of Tweetbot’s engineers, Paul Haddad, said that the previous method of getting a user’s timeline “is one of our most utilized API requests.”The API’s latest version was introduced in 2012, so it was long beyond its prime — and developers who used it faced more limits when trying to get a user’s timeline.
Haddad said that the change will make Tweetbot more responsive to users. “We’ll just be able to refresh the timeline more frequently and allow customers to look far further back in their timeline” since API v2 allows developers to perform more queries in a few ways. You could access the home timeline 15 times in 15 minutes and retrieve up to 800 tweets using API v1.1. API v2 allows up to 180 inquiries per user and returns 3,200 tweets in the same timeframe.
From a development viewpoint, he claims it simplifies everything. “We now retrieve a list of Tweets using the v1.1 home timeline API, then use the v2 APIs to fill in any v2 specific data (polls, cards, metrics, etc…) We can now retrieve all of the data in one go using the new v2 version.”
Twitter has made one thing very obvious throughout the v2 rollout (which began in 2020 and concluded late last year as the primary mode of interacting with Twitter), and that is that it is seeking to make peace with developers after years of making new capabilities exclusive to its first-party app. The company even went so far as to remove user restrictions from its terms of service, making it more difficult for third-party clients to compete with the official app.
Because talk is cheap, it’s reasonable if some developers doubt Twitter’s commitment. But, with Friday’s announcement, Twitter appears to be continuing its practice of granting developers access to key functionality, and Haddad thinks it’s “notable” that Twitter constructed and published a home timeline API for v2.”One of the most essential uses of this API is to allow third-party Twitter clients to be Twitter clients.” They’ve made this public, implying that they’ll continue to tolerate and even promote alternative clients.