Twitter’s latest update makes third-party apps better

Twitter announced an update on Friday that should significantly improve the experience in third-party Twitter apps: it gives developers much more access to the reverse chronological timeline. This update to Twitter’s recently launched API v2, the interface developers use to get data from Twitter, is another (and I believe encouraging) step in Twitter’s journey to better support developers.

As Twitter notes in its announcement post, the new API v2 feature provides developers with a way to “retrieve the most recent Tweets and Retweets posted by the verified user and the accounts they follow.” In other words, a developer may ask to see the data Twitter shows you when you load the first party app with the “Last Tweets” option selected so that their app can show it to you.

For third-party customers like Tweetbot, the feature (or “endpoint” in developer parlance) is a very welcome one. Paul Haddad, one of the developers of Tweetbot, is quoted in Twitter’s announcement as saying that the old way of getting a user’s timeline is “one of our most used API calls”. The old version of the API was launched in 2012so it definitely got long in the tooth – and developers using it faced more limits 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 can just refresh the timeline more often and let users scroll much further back in their timeline,” thanks to API v2 allowing developers to make more requests in a number of ways. The old version, API v1.1, let you request the house timeline 15 times in a 15 minute window and can return up to 800 tweets. API v2 supports up to 180 requests per user in the same time frame and retrieves 3,200 tweets.

From a development standpoint, he says, it makes things much simpler. “We are currently using the v1.1 home timeline API to get a list of tweets and then v2 APIs to populate v2 specific data (polls, maps, stats, etc…). With this new v2 version, we can get all that data in one step.”

During the rollout of v2 (it was tested in 2020 and launched late last year as the main way to interact with Twitter), Twitter has made one thing very clear: it is trying to make amends with developers, after years of new features exclusive to his first party app. The company has 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 how many users they could have.

Talk is cheap, and it wouldn’t be surprising if some developers weren’t sure if Twitter was actually involved. But with Friday’s announcement, the company appears to be continuing the trend of giving developers access to critical 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 a big one is that third-party Twitter clients are becoming Twitter clients. The fact that they’ve released this is an indication that they will continue to allow and even encourage alternative clients .”

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