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Twitter front-end Nitter dies as Musk wins war against third-party services


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An open source project that let people view tweets without going to Twitter.com has shut down, saying that Elon Musk’s changes closed off all possible ways to access the Twitter network without a user account.

Nitter provided an alternative front-end to Twitter but has been struggling for months. The website Nitter.net went down a few weeks ago, and the project announced its demise today. “Nitter is over—it’s been a fun ride. Twitter blocked the last known way to access their network without a user account,” the update said.

There were multiple instances of Nitter. Users reported that many instances went down about eight months ago as Twitter (now called X) imposed new API restrictions. Some instances stayed online with workarounds, which no longer work.

“Most Nitter servers were using a technique of generating loads of temporary tokens that were used for accessing the content, but that path is now blocked as well,” the update posted today said.

Twitter limited “any access they can’t monetize”

Nitter says its service was designed to maintain users’ privacy.

“Over the last 2 years nitter.cz proxied over 10 Billion requests (>10,000,000,000) to Twitter, shielding you from tracking and ads, while providing a fast user interface… We never track our users, show ads or sell any data to any third party,” the update said. “Our infrastructure runs on our own bare-metal servers, and we are not dependent on any cloud provider. That doesn’t mean it’s free. Running our servers costs us ~600€/month, and we are only able to pay for it thanks to users who are pitching in.”

Nitter’s update said its main developer, Zed, “worked really hard to keep the project going” over the past few years. “But Twitter worked just as hard on closing their network down and limiting any access they can’t monetize.”

Guest-account workaround stopped working

In August 2023, Zed explained on GitHub that the project found a way to continue at least temporarily despite Twitter’s API changes.

“I conclude that it is possible to easily acquire thousands of guest accounts within just a few minutes by using proxies, and they are all usable from a single IP address without getting rate limited,” the August 2023 post said. “The rate limits per account work the same way as guest tokens, with a 15 minute window of x requests being allowed. It is therefore 100% feasible to get Nitter back up and running, it just requires a bunch of proxies. I will also develop a service that fetches these continuously, and lets operators request guest accounts for their own instances without having to pay for proxies.”

The so-called guest account was really a “strange anonymous account old versions of the Android and iOS apps used to make when you opened them for the first time,” Zed explained. “It doesn’t use an email address, a password, or even a customizable username, and they cannot be viewed anywhere or logged into.”

Each guest account essentially provided temporary credentials that worked with the Twitter API for about a month. It “is therefore not equivalent to setting up a bot farm to create fake X/Twitter accounts,” Zed wrote.

Nitter sad that Twitter is led by “egomaniac”

Of course, this guest account workaround has since been closed off. Pointing to a recent discussion on GitHub, today’s update said there may be “a way to spin up a personal Nitter instance with your own account to keep the interface you are used to, but there is no guarantee this will work long-term.”

This also wouldn’t work on a large scale. “Unfortunately regular accounts can only support a small group of users, so running a public instance this way is not feasible,” the update said.

As for what Nitter users should do now, the post had a recommendation: “Don’t trust corporations, especially those where one egomaniac has all the power. Use open-source and community driven solutions if you can (like Mastodon).”

The team behind Nitter accepts donations and offers a few other services, including file sharing with end-to-end encryption.





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