This should have been a banner day for Twitter, which was planning to launch its long-awaited API. But while the company is still announcing details of the service, it has decided to postpone the actual launch following an embarrassing hack.
A Twitter spokesperson told VentureBeat the company had not found any evidence that the incident, which impacted some of its most prominent users — including U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden, reality TV star Kim Kardashian, former U.S. President Barack Obama, and billionaire Elon Musk — had any connection to the new API. But out of caution, the company remains focused on security issues for now, the spokesperson said.
While the new API isn’t a direct service that consumers will notice, it represents a critical product launch in terms of Twitter’s relationship with developers. In a blog post and a briefing with journalists, Twitter executives said the new API would expand the ways third-party services can interact with and share the social network’s data.
“We’re doing this because we have a really strong belief in the good things that developers have built with us in the past and will build with the API in the future,” said Ian Cairns, head of product for the Twitter Developer Platform, during the briefing. “And we hope that by doing this, we’re making a clear sign of our commitment to our developer ecosystem into the future.”
That relationship with developers has not always been a smooth one. Twitter has at various points opened its system to developers only to later retreat and restrict usage. In the earliest days, external developers were responsible for many of Twitter’s most critical features, from search to its first mobile apps.
After straining those relationships by buying or launching services that competed with its developer community, Twitter renewed its attempts to court developers when Jack Dorsey returned as CEO a few years ago. Those overtures included restarting its developers’ conference, as well as more recent initiatives, such as Twitter Developer Labs and a new COVID-19 data stream.
Still, Cairns noted this is the first update to the API, perhaps the most essential tool for developers, in eight years.
Twitter API v2 is designed to be more flexible and scalable than its predecessor, which is basically one-size-fits-all. The executives said the updated API is built on a new foundation that will enable options like choosing which fields of data developers want to call and how many tweets related to a conversation get returned.
Other new features include the ability to thread conversations and see poll results in tweets, as well as better filters and more robust search queries.
The new API will also simplify access. Currently, Twitter offers three tiers: standard (free), premium, and enterprise. But moving between the three tiers could be cumbersome. Now users will be able to shift between tiers without having to rebuild their products.
Twitter will also be introducing specialized versions of the API that target different segments: standard for general use, academic, and enterprise. And the introduction will come with a new developer portal.
When the new API does launch, it won’t immediately replace the existing v1.1 standard, premium, and enterprise APIs. Its eventual rollout is currently being dubbed “Early Access.” Still, that early access will enable products that can stream tweets in real time, analyze past conversations, measure tweet performance, and listen for important events.
Twitter said it has more work to do before the new version becomes the default.