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.
The new API v2 capability, according to Twitter’s statement, allows developers to “get the most recent Tweets and Retweets made by the authenticated user and the accounts they follow.” In other words, a developer can request access to the data that Twitter displays when you open the first-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, the previous method of getting a user’s timeline “is one of our most frequent API calls,” according to Paul Haddad, one of Tweetbot’s engineers. The last version of the API was released in 2012, so it was well beyond its prime — and developers utilizing it faced greater limitations when attempting to obtain a user’s timeline.
Haddad detailed the move in an email to the media, saying it will make Tweetbot more responsive to users. Because API v2 allows developers to make more queries in a few ways, “we’ll simply be able to refresh the timeline more regularly and allow consumers to browse much further back in their timeline.” The former API v1.1 allowed you to request the home timeline 15 times in a 15-minute span and receive up to 800 tweets each time. In the same timeframe, API v2 enables up to 180 queries per user and retrieves 3,200 tweets.
It simplifies things from a development viewpoint, he claims. “Right now, we utilize the v1.1 home timeline API to receive a list of Tweets and then use the v2 APIs to fill in any v2 specific data (polls, cards, metrics, etc…) We can now acquire all of the data in one step using the new v2 version.”
Throughout the v2 rollout (which began in 2020 and ended late last year as the primary method to interact with Twitter), Twitter has made one thing quite clear: it’s trying to make peace with developers after years of making new features exclusive to its first-party app. The corporation went so far as to eliminate limitations from its terms of service that made it more difficult for third-party clients to compete with the official app, such as user limits.
Talk is cheap, so it’s understandable if some developers are unsure whether Twitter is truly dedicated. 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. “This API has a lot of purposes, but one of the most important is allowing third-party Twitter clients to be Twitter clients.” The fact that they’ve made this public suggests that they’ll continue to tolerate and even promote alternative clientele.”