Twitter announced an update on Friday this should significantly improve the experience in third-party Twitter apps: it gives developers much wider access to its reverse chronological timeline. This update to Twitter’s recently launched API v2, the interface developers use to get data from Twitter, is another (and, in my opinion, encouraging) step in Twitter’s journey to better support developers.
As Twitter notes in its announcement, the new API v2 feature gives developers a way to “fetch the most recent Tweets and Retweets posted by the authenticated user and the accounts they follow.” In other words, a developer can request to see the data Twitter shows you when you load the proprietary app with the “Latest tweets” option selected, so that their app can show it to you instead.
For third-party clients like Tweetbot, the feature (or “endpoint” in developer parlance) is welcome. Paul Haddad, one of the developers of Tweetbot, is quoted in Twitter’s announcement as saying that the old method of getting a user’s timeline “is one of our most used API calls.” The old API version was launched in 2012so it was definitely getting long in the tooth – and developers using it faced more limitations when trying to get a user’s timeline.
In an email to The edge, Haddad explained that the change will make Tweetbot more responsive to users. “We’ll just be able to refresh the timeline more often and allow users to scroll much farther down their timeline,” thanks to the v2 API allowing developers to make more requests in more ways. The old version, API v1.1, let you ask the home timeline 15 times in a 15 minute window and could return up to 800 tweets. The v2 API supports up to 180 requests per user over the same period and fetches 3,200 tweets.
From a development perspective, he says, it makes things much simpler. “We are currently using the home timeline API v1.1 to get a list of Tweets, then the v2 APIs to populate all v2 specific data (polls, maps, metrics, etc.). With this new version v2, we can get all this data in one step.
Throughout the rollout of v2 (it was tested in 2020 and launched as the primary means of interface with Twitter late last year), Twitter has made one thing clear: it’s trying to make amends from developers, after years of making new features exclusive. to its proprietary application. The company even removed restrictions from its terms of service that made it harder for third-party customers to compete with the official app, such as limits on the number of users they could have.
Talking is cheap, and it wouldn’t be surprising if some developers didn’t know if Twitter was actually engaged. But with Friday’s announcement, the company seems to show it’s continuing the trend of giving developers access to crucial features, and Haddad says it’s “remarkable” that Twitter has actually built and released a Home timeline API for v2. “There are a number of uses for this API, but one of the most important is to make third-party Twitter clients Twitter clients. The fact that they posted this is an indication that they will continue to allow and even encourage alternative clients.