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


Illustration of a shovel being used to bury the Twitter logo

Aurich Lawson | Getty Images

An open source project that let people view tweets without going to has shut down, as Elon Musk’s changes seem to have 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 official Nitter instance, went down a few weeks ago.

NoLog, a Czech group that ran another Nitter instance, announced its demise today. NoLog operated one of the largest Nitter instances but is a different group than the one that created Nitter itself.

“Nitter is over—it’s been a fun ride. Twitter blocked the last known way to access their network without a user account,” the NoLog update said.

Users reported that many Nitter 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 NoLog update today said.

Twitter limited “any access they can’t monetize”

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

“Over the last 2 years 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.”

NoLog’s update said that Nitter’s 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.”

There are still some active Nitter instances, but they are expected to shut down in the near future as the remaining tokens expire. Three weeks ago, Zed wrote on GitHub that “Nitter is dead.”

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.

Group 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 from NoLog 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 NoLog 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).”

NoLog accepts donations and offers a few other services, including file sharing with end-to-end encryption.

This article was corrected after publication to make it clear that NoLog and Nitter are separate entities.


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