Twitter’s Updated API Roadmap Is A Big Deal

By @TheMarkDalton

Twitter has a rocky relationship with developers. It is no big secret, in fact we have touched on the issue several times in the past and have gone into detail about what went wrong with developers and how.

The history

Real brief for those why may not know the details, Twitter at one point encouraged third party apps and then restricted them. They hosted developer conferences and then killed them only to bring them back recently.

To put it simply, after encouraging third party development Twitter then blocked access to a host of API tools which made those features ‘Twitter exclusives’ and we ended up with dumbed down third party apps through no fault of the developers.

The end result is that functionality of apps was so limited in certain places they just were not worth the time using. Perfect example of mine is Tweetbot for iOS. I hate the main Twitter app, really hate it but Tweetbot 4 is a perfect example of how Twitter should be experienced.

With a stranglehold on Twitter API tools it means that basics are left out of Tweetbot, up until recently you couldn’t send images in DM’s, you can’t use group DM’s, there is no activity API tools (though Tweetbot got creative and developed their own activity monitor), there is no built in GIF support…and the list goes on. I always try to use it but eventually end up falling back to the Twitter app as it is the only app that has it all.

Finally, change is on the horizon

While Twitter doesn’t appear to be ready to open up complete API access, there are positive changes coming and for the first time ever Twitter has revealed their API roadmap to the public.

Here they split the API tools into newly released APIs as well as APIs they are working on and ideas they are considering at the moment. For starters, they are taking advantage of Gnip which they acquired in 2014 by unifying REST and streaming APIs together.

Many developers are using the REST API tools from 2006 as Gnip is priced for the enterprise market. Gnip API gives access to the full unfiltered stream of tweets and tweet metadata. The idea is to have a platform which indie developers and large businesses can use to scale their apps.

API tools for data and DMs

Twitter will also be introducing new API tools for DMs and data this year. These APIs will allow developers to build business solutions to help with customer service, bots and brand engagement.

The APIs will allow developers to build tools such as customer service chatbots, automated quick replies and more. There are also plans to improve search with new search API tools.

The new search API will offer access to a 7 day look back window with more sophisticated queries and higher fidelity data retrieval.

The new roadmap

For the first time ever, Twitter has revealed their new API roadmap to the public where you can follow what they are working on, what they have released and what they are considering working on next.

If Twitter follows through an executes the roadmap they have laid out then it could be beneficial all round to Twitter, developers and customers.

However time will tell, Twitter has made promises to developers before only to come back and break them. They have a troubled past with developers and it will take time to fix that past and build up the relationship that once existed.

They have to win developers trust again. They have in the past shafted their own partners and developers on the platform.

On top of all this, Twitter’s future hangs in the balance. With an uncertain future at the moment, developers may not want to take the time to invest in developing on the back of new APIs if there is a risk that the platform could start spiralling downhill.

It is a positive step forward but there is still much work for the social media company to do.

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