Over the holiday weekend, Twitter users started getting messages about having "exceeded" their "rate limit" for viewing tweets, and it turns out this was non-CEO-CEO Elon Musk's latest effort to crack down on data scraping, which in turn pissed off a legion of loyal users.
Musk characterized the change in a tweet-announcement Saturday as a "temporary" one aimed at "address[ing] extreme levels of data scraping & system manipulation." The change comes amid grumbling by paid users of Twitter's API (application programming interface) — the platform's data feed for third-party apps and sites — who say that the system keeps breaking. But how long the limits will be in place is anyone's guess.
The changes rolled out also now require users to be logged in in order to view any tweets, which immediately limits the number of casual users scrolling the platform.
The initial limits Musk announced were 6,000 tweets per day for verified/paid users, 600 per day for unverified users, and 300 per day for new unverified users. Reactions from Twitter's heaviest users were loud and swift.
A paying user: This is what Tweetdeck looks like now. You remain a genius product innovator. pic.twitter.com/7TDnP0B39G— Philipp Kloeckner (@pip_net) July 2, 2023
Musk said on Friday that "several hundred organizations" had been scraping large amounts of data from Twitter, and that it was affecting the real user experience.
Much like when he announced and then quickly changed the price for becoming a new "verified" user last fall — $20/month, which he then spontaneously lowered to $8/month in a reply-tweet to Stephen King, who still says he isn't paying for it — it only took a few hours before Musk heard all the complaining and raised the limits. First it was 8,000 and 800 for verified and unverified, respectively. Then, by Sunday evening, he had upped it to 10,000 and 1,000.
It's no doubt connected that, on Thursday, Mashable reported that there was much consternation among paid subscribers of Twitter's API — some of whom are spending $42,000 per month for the privilege — about their feeds breaking. Under Musk's tenure at the company, the API subscriber rates all went up — it's now $100/month for the Basic plan, $5,000/month for the Pro plan, and $42,000/month for the Enterprise plan. And, a new version of the API was rolled out, causing multiple third-party sites to break.
"Everything used to work fine before we started paying half a million per year," said one anonymous developer in a group chat, per Mashable.
"The API has been stable for the better part of 13 years," said Collin Robinson, the creator of Who Unfollowed Me. And then on June 13, something broke, Robinson said, when the new API rolled out, and it took two weeks to rewrite the code to make it function again. But then Twitter announced that it was removing follower information from all but Enterprise account API subscribers, and so that's the end of Who Unfollowed Me, which is a free, ad-based site
The much-used TweetDeck is also basically broken after the rate-limit change, as The Verge reports. Many users of tweetdeck are members of the media, and we all know how Musk feels about us!
While it's unclear how long Musk will let the complaining go on and the rate limits continue for regular Twitter users, many media outlets, including the NY Times, have begun counting the ways that Twitter immediately becomes more useless — like for those who use the platform to track severe weather, or track reactions to live sports.
"This Twitter change today is a total dumpster fire," says Alabama-based meteorologist James Spann, in a tweet. "Unless something changes, this platform is now pretty much useless for those of us in the weather enterprise."
Multiple media outlets did their due diligence in trying to reach Twitter's non-existent comms department, and all reported that they received the poop emoji auto-reply that all media inquiries now get.
Many outlets, including Reuters and Business Insider, noted that the new rate-limit change is just one more way Musk is making new CEO Linda Yaccarino's job harder. How is the company supposed regain the trust of advertisers when this move just destroyed the reach of advertisers vis a vis user eyeballs per day?
Lou Paskalis, Bank of America's former marketing boss and the founder of advertising consultancy AJL Advisory, told Reuters, "This move signals to the marketplace that [Musk]'s not capable of empowering [Yaccarino] to save him from himself."
The change has already sent a bunch of people who have access to it flooding onto Bluesky, Jack Dorsey's Twitter competitor that remains in beta mode. CNBC notes that Bluesky reported record-high users on the platform on Saturday after the Twitter fiasco went down.
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images