Twitter unveils major API update, including new product tracks for developers

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Twitter on Thursday unveiled the next generation of its application programming interface, marking the first total overhaul of the API in eight years. The social network said the V2 API includes a completely rebuilt API foundation, and new product tracks and access levels for developers.

The API was due to launch today in early access, but the company has decided to pause the official launch in light of Wednesday’s security incident, in which a number of high profile Twitter accounts — including those belonging to Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Joe Biden and Barack Obama — were breached by hackers pushing a bitcoin giveaway scam.

Twitter said there is no evidence the incident had anything to do with its API, and that the move to delay the V2 launch was to ensure the security of its platform. 

Nonetheless, the new API announcement is a big deal for Twitter. The company relies on developer partnerships to expand the functionality of its platform, and in order to keep developers building happily, the API was redesigned to provide an improved experience, with greater flexibility, parity and clarity.

Ian Cairns, head of product for the Twitter Developer Platform, said in a press briefing earlier this week that V2 will function as one unified API with the ability for developers to scale access levels as needed. 

The new product tracks are broken out into three levels: Standard, which is the free basic level that will launch first; Academic Research; and Business. The company also plans to launch a new developer portal, which is used by developers to access apps, manage projects and teams, and set configurations to work with the API. 

The first release will make the free basic access level available to developers, focused narrowly on helping developers listen to and analyze the conversations on Twitter. While this is something that developers have done for a long time, the V2 release brings key improvements, Cairns said. 

For instance, with the new basic access level, developers will have the ability to stream tweets in real time or study past conversations on Twitter — features that were previously only available to enterprise level API developers. 

Over the coming months, Twitter said it plans to publish a guide on the future of the API and update its public product roadmap to provide visibility into what’s coming next. The company said it will continue to add new features to the API, including hide replies API functionality, an academic research product track, and functionality to engage with conversations on Twitter.

As for the major security breach Twitter experienced Wednesday, the company has said it believes a “coordinated social engineering attack” was at play.

“We detected what we believe to be a coordinated social engineering attack by people who successfully targeted some of our employees with access to internal systems and tools,” the company tweeted.

“We know they used this access to take control of many highly-visible (including verified) accounts and tweet on their behalf. We’re looking into what other malicious activity they may have conducted or information they may have accessed and will share more here as we have it.”

Twitter said once it became aware of the incident, it immediately locked the affected accounts and removed tweets posted by the attackers.

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