With its recent API access cost increases causing much angst within the developer community, Twitter has come back with a new API access tier, which will provide more tweet access for a more reasonable price.
As highlighted above, the new ‘Pro’ tweet API offering provides developers with access to a million tweets per month, at the low, low price of $5k per month – or $60k per annum. Which, for some, will be an improvement than the existing access points, which have already priced many developers and academics out of their various projects. But still, $5k per month for a million tweets is a lot – especially when Twitter’s free API access, up till February this year, provided developers with similar access to this, free of cost.
Twitter’s new API access charges, which it’s implemented to combat the creation of bot armies, are a significant jump on the previous costs, with Elon and Co. also looking to do all that they can to bring in more revenue for the company.
The updated pricing immediately saw many public service tools, like transport alerts, announce that they’d be canceling their automated Twitter updates – though Twitter has since announced that approved services like these will still be able to access the API for free.
One of the most important use cases for the Twitter API has always been public utility. Verified gov or publicly owned services who tweet weather alerts, transport updates and emergency notifications may use the API, for these critical purposes, for free.— Twitter Dev (@TwitterDev) May 2, 2023
But that doesn’t cover many other bot tools and services that also provide value, and the risk in Twitter’s approach is that it could become a less valuable utility as a result, which may eventually impact usage.
But as noted, Musk sees the API as a potential vector for bot swarms. And as with Twitter Blue, Elon’s hoping that by tacking on extra charges to such access, that’ll effectively make it cost-prohibitive for bot creators to keep running their schemes.
Though there is another potential consideration in Musk’s API and access price rises, which is more aligned with his own personal grievances.
Twitter’s also taking on Microsoft over its use of Twitter data, via API access, which it claims is beyond the limitations imposed within Microsoft’s approved usage. Microsoft is now partnered with OpenAI, a company that Elon once had a significant investment in, and Musk’s view is that OpenAI has essentially stolen Twitter data to train its LLM systems, in order to fuel generative AI tools like ChatGPT.
The brief summary is that Elon gave OpenAI millions of dollars to assist in its development, then sought to take over as CEO of the company in 2018, in order to hasten its progress. OpenAI rebutted Musk’s offer, which then saw Elon turn his back on it, and pull all of his future funding pledges. But OpenAI had already taken some millions from Musk – and now that OpenAI is making big money from its generative AI tools, Elon is apparently not happy that he isn’t going to get a dime of that intake, despite his early involvement.
This could be another factor in his decision to hike up the price of Twitter API access, in order to restrict other companies from taking Twitter’s proprietary data, and profiting off of his content in a similar way.
Elon’s also building his own generative AI model, which will be free of ‘woke bias’, and everything considered, it’s not beyond the scope of possibility that Elon’s pushing up the costs of Twitter API access in order to fend off his various business rivals.
(Note that Twitter is also asking API subscribers to remove any previously downloaded data, or face further legal recourse.)
Though the main impetus seems to be Twitter’s need to diversify its income with subscriptions, API access and advertising ideally settling into a more equal share of the company’s revenue pie.
Which seems unlikely to be the end result, but Elon’s trying new things - and maybe there’s enough potential indicators there to keep pushing, in order to maximize Twitter’s opportunities. Or maybe there’s not, and eventually, Twitter will have to walk these changes back. That approach is seemingly part of what’s made Musk successful, his willingness to try and fail in public, and maybe, it will present potential new opportunities for the business.
Twitter’s new API pricing system is now in effect.