This is not about to be fun.
On February 2, 2023, at 1:05 AM EST, the official Twitter Dev account announced that the Twitter API will no longer be free to access come February 9, 2023. Instead, "a paid basic tier will be available instead."
Crucially, they announcement did not provide any information about pricing or access, opting for the statement "We’ll be back with more details on what you can expect next week."
It's next week. There's still no details.
This is incredibly frustrating for me, as a developer first, but also as the creator and maintainer of vss365today.com.
Sure, there's probably reasons for the paywall that's going up against the API. This is not the first time this post-Musk Twitter has shortchanged developers on an extremely short notice. But the money problems or managment drama is not why I'm frustrated, nor something I want to talk about. I'm not against APIs that charge for access. A lot of good APIs are that way.
No, what is grinding my gears is how this was announced, is being handled, and what that means for the future of vss365today.
The fact a single week, 7 days, notice was given, in the dead middle of the night mind you, is not how you handle technical platform changes, especially one like a paywall. My day job is a professional software developer. Even changes we make internally, especially large ones, get mentioned and planned out for deployment at least a week before. If it can affect our customers, we make sure to notify them about it during business hours and provide all relevant information so they can plan their day or activities accordingly. And we're a small company that is able to move more quickly. For bigger companies, a change notice can be announced months or years before its going to be implemented. For example, here's a list of changes Microsoft intends to perform, going all the way to December. Twitter, like Microsoft, is a multi-million customer platform. Announcing this change in the manner they did, without any additional details, gives very little time for any developer to adjust accordingly. Instead, we're all sitting in limbo for the hour additional information will be provided so we can begin to think about any changes we need to make.
This announcement is made worse by failure to announce the cost for accessing the API. It's one thing to announce any significant change on short notice. Telling people they must also being paying without telling them how much, is a sure-fire way to anger people. It'd be like going to a restaurant, ordering a burger, then only when your ticket is brought out, seeing it cost you $30. You can be sure that customer will never return and the restaurant will likely have some form of lawsuit brought against them. The same thing is occurring here. I don't think I need to explain further.
To restate, I'm not mad that the API will cost money to access. Mailgun, which is the provider I use for sending out notification emails, charges access for their API. That's fine, It's a good API to use for a good (and difficult) thing. On the vss365today Donate page, I even tell you how much a month it costs me to use their API. I run the site at cost, willingly, and gladly, because there's instristic value in its purpose. So the very fact the Twitter API will be paywalled is not an issue to me as much as I have no idea how much it might cost me to continue using until it the moment the bill will be due.
So, yeah, I'm mad.
Now for the part you've been wondering: how does this affect vss365today?
Unfortunately, the best answer I can give is I don't know.
As I've documented in the primer, the site makes use of the Twitter API to find the newest Prompt for archiving and sending out to everyone who has subscribed to the notification emails, which is up to 692 a day, or nearly 21,000 a month. The API must also be used to get the Twitter user ID, which is required by the Twitter API to search timelines. This ID is only available through the API. Without this ID, I can't automatically find the Prompt. Even my semi-manual method of adding a new prompt requires the API. There's no way for the site, in its current form, to continue being updated without the Twitter API or lots of manual intervention to add new prompts.
vss365today has been in active development since December 2018. I am currently working on rewriting the API that powers the site to work better and support new features, like an admin panel for easy site control and even the idea of having the finder automatically switch between Hosts. I genuinely love this site and the #vss365 community. For this site to go into permanent read-only mode at a moments notice would be devastating to me and many others. I've poured so many hours and dollars into this site to make it work as best as possible. I've learned a lot about web app and API development through it. It's the first hobby project I've had actually get popular and used a lot, and with very little marketing from me! I don't intend to simply give up here.
However, it is inevitable. The Twitter API is going to cost money. We don't know how much, but we will.
For now, I don't know what the site's future looks like. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯