Too little, too late. Or really, still too much and also too late. That’s the sentiment among startup founders and indie developers when it comes to Twitter‘s newly announced API plans meant for startups.
On Thursday, Twitter announced a new paid API subscription tier called Twitter API Pro that the company claims is meant for “startups.”
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“Experiment, build, and scale your business with 1M Tweets per month, including our powerful real-time Filtered/Stream and Full Archive Search endpoints,” the official Twitter Dev account tweeted when announcing the plan.
The cost of this new supposedly startup-friendly API plan? A whopping $5,000 per month.
Many did not take this new “more affordable” pricing tier news well.
“I don’t know who this plan is for,” tweeted one Twitter user.
“Idk what kind of ‘startup’ you think wants to spend 5x the cost of their entire infrastructure on your overpriced data,” tweeted another.
New API plan won’t revive what Twitter killed
Developers have been waiting with bated breath for months now, after Elon Musk acquired the company and decided to end free API access and started charging a minimum of $42,000 per month for Enterprise access. The company also unveiled a $100 per month plan at the time, meant for “students” and “hobbyists,” but most developers found that tier so limiting that they couldn’t run their apps using it.
Twitter first announced the API pricing changes back in February. Then, more than two months ago, the company started shutting off access and forcing the paid subscription plans.
Developers had tried to reason with Twitter, using the platform to explain how this new model will kill the third-party ecosystem. One private Slack group for Twitter app creators quickly grew to nearly 900 members. According to multiple developers in that chat, they had personally reached out to Twitter and tried to negotiate a model that could work for both parties.
Twitter wouldn’t budge. The entry point for API access was $42,000.
So, many were left with a choice: somehow pay at least $42,000 per month to Twitter or close up shop. Very few third-party Twitter-based platforms were making enough money to even afford that pricing, so many indie developers and founders were forced to choose the latter.
“Twitter announced its PRO API plan,” tweeted founder Maxime Dupré, who had to severely alter his Twitter-based app after the API changes. “Too bad they killed 99% of the Twitter apps before announcing it.”
Others shared similar experiences in the replies to @TwitterDev.
“Too late…we’ve already canceled our twitter services,” replied one user to Twitter’s new API announcement.
One indie developer, Tony Dinh was in the midst of successfully growing his Twitter app, BlackMagic.so, when Twitter changed the API terms. Even though he was making tens of thousands of dollars per month from subscriptions, he would have still been operating at a loss under the $42,000 per month API plan. So, he sold his app earlier this month.
“Already sold @blackmagic_so 😂,” tweeted Dinh upon hearing the news about the API Pro plan. “Well, at least I did what I thought was the most responsible thing I could do at the time as a business owner 🤷♂️”
So, while there’s likely a sliver of app creators who will benefit from this new $5,000 per month plan, most are still left in the lurch. Those who could’ve made it work had to reconfigure their plans and moved on months ago. Others are still priced out.
“The only people this helps are the apps who can now safely downgrade from $42k/m,” tweeted Dan Rowden, a developer who had to completely alter the direction of his Twitter analytics startup. “Still no plans that indie makers or brand new tools can use. This doesn’t help the ecosystem.”
Twitter API model a mess at every price point
Twitter’s new exorbitantly-priced API model has caused quite a few headaches for the company as well as its former clients.
A new report from The Independent found that researchers who once paid for an academic tier of API pricing, which no longer exists, are being told to pay up for the new $42,000 tier or delete the data they had received from when they were a paying subscriber. Twitter was even forcing the fee upon public service and public safety accounts like the National Weather Service and the MTA, before the blowback forced them to reverse course on charging for those specific use cases. Even bigger companies like Microsoft, Intercom, and WordPress’ parent company Automattic decided to pass on Twitter’s new pricing structure for API access and removed Twitter integrations from its platforms.
At this stage, Twitter has to do more than just find the sweet spot in pricing for all the various types of users of its API. It will need to rebuild trust with developers, so that they don’t waste precious time and resources on building for a platform that’s going to just turn on them again. And based on how many of these indie developers and founders feel, it may be too late for Twitter to do so.