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WordPress Plugin Developers Alerted Ahead of Twitter API Changes

Beginning February 9, 2023, Twitter will turn off free access to its APIs. The company announced yesterday that it will be offering “a paid basic tier” with more details coming next week.

In response to a user who conjectured that this move is more about raising the friction to making bots, Elon Musk responded, saying that this is one factor motivating the change.

“Yeah, free API is being abused badly right now by bot scammers and opinion manipulators,” Musk said. “There’s no verification process or cost, so easy to spin up 100k bots to do bad things. Just ~$100/month for API access with ID verification will clean things up greatly.”

It’s not yet clear how this will effect the Twitter ecosystem, whether it will impact bots that auto-tweet links from blogs and other useful tools. So far it is already affecting some migration tools like Movetodon that rely on the Twitter API to help users find their contacts on Mastodon. Movetodon’s creator said his app’s access was shut down today. According to Twitter, the app “has violated Twitter Rules and policies.” Fedifinder, a tool that helps users find the Fediverse accounts of their Twitter contacts, is still up and running at the time of publishing.

NetNewsWire, an open source news aggregator, has already announced it will be removing Twitter integration in its next release:

You might think we’re reading RSS feeds from Twitter, but Twitter removed RSS feeds from the service something like ten years ago. We rely completely on the Twitter API.

WordPress’ Plugins team published a notice, alerting developers and site owners of Twitter’s upcoming API change. The team warned that the following types of Twitter plugins might be affected:

  • Auto-posting
  • Login with Twitter
  • Analytics
  • Management Tools
  • Scripted Interactions (auto-blocking etc)

“If your plugin (or the related service) does any of those, you will have to investigate if this change impacts you,” Plugin Review Team Rep Mika Epstein said. “If you are impacted, you will need to update (or close) your plugin accordingly. I know a lot of free plugins will have some hard choices to make here.

“For plugin users, if a plugin suddenly breaks on/around the 9th, please be generous and kind to the developers. They really got blindsided by this, and it’s a lot to sort out in a short amount of time.”

WordPress plugin developer Joe Dolson, author of WP to Twitter and WP Tweets Pro, published an early reaction to the news.

“WP to Twitter makes very little revenue as it is,” Dolson said. “If I end up doing a lot of support because of this, or need to make significant changes to the plug-in, I will most likely just shut everything down and close the plug-in. That’s a purely practical decision.”

Dolson also said if the API costs are affordable for the average small user, then he will likely keep things as they are. This is because API access for the plugin is managed through each users’ developer account with Twitter.

“If the API costs are very expensive for the average small user, I suspect that will completely destroy the WP to Twitter user base, and there will be little to no justification to my continuing to maintain it,” Dolson said.

Many users are likely not technical enough to understand what an API is, let alone why free access is being cut off. This could create a major support burden for plugins that no longer work after February 9. Developers who become frustrated with the platform becoming less open, may no longer be motivated to create these kinds of tools.

With just one week’s notice, and very few details, developers have little time to react. Once Twitter releases more information next week about its API changes, plugin developers will need to be ready to take action with notices written to help users understand what is happening. This news comes on the heels of the company updating its developer rules last month to ban third-party Twitter clients.