In January 2023, when Twitter killed off third party apps, I had intended to write a blog post about the solution I found, via RSS, to still follow the people I wanted without using the Twitter app or website (because fuck Musk). I never got around to it and now, once again, things have changed with the upcoming shut down of the Twitter API.
I’m 100% all in on Mastodon and the Fediverse now, but let’s face it - not everyone has moved to Mastodon and we all have that handful of people that we still want to follow on Twitter. So if you’re like me, you need a solution that avoids Twitter but still gets you the tweets you want, if at all possible.
TLDR: Use Nitter!
I have never been a big tweeter, but I did use Twitter as a source for news, especially breaking news. My previous, much ♥️ solution was to use Twitterrific from the Icon Factory. No ads, no wonky algorithm and a chronological feed. It made Twitter (mostly) enjoyable. Then the third party app access was ended (which I ranted about here) and I needed a new solution. I went through my Twitter accounts (a personal one, one for my old business and one I used just to follow sports teams/writers because I never liked lists) and paired the accounts I followed down to just the active ones I wanted. If it was a news organization, rather than the fire host of tweets, I moved to their RSS feeds where I could.
I had previously purchased the amazing Reeder app and used that for my RSS feeds from news orgs, but their Twitter display left a lot to be desired. I instead used NetNewsWire, a free RSS reeder that had great Twitter support and display. I was able to authenticate through Twitter and see my Home feed for each account, with all the tweets I would have seen on a third party app, in order, with no ads or algorithm. It was like Twitterrific all over again, and I was skirting around the ever changing whims of a right-wing, boorish billionaire.
However, because I had to authenticate through Twitter, you can probably see where this is going.
In April 2023, Twitter ended the free API access and started to ̶e̶x̶t̶o̶r̶t̶ charge users who wanted to use even the simplest API tools. That meant that if your app wanted to simply post as a bot, or let users connect to your own app, you’d have to pay up. That clearly would be a problem for my workaround because both NetNewsWire and Reeder require you to sign into Twitter to be able to access your Home feed (or, if you are a glutton for punishment, the “For You” tab). I haven’t checked for sure, but I imagine other services like Feedly and FeedBin are going to have the same problem.
After some digging though, I believe I found a solution in Nitter. I had seen their service popup on Mastodon, mostly via bots, wherein it was basically mirroring tweets that a Twitter account posted, but on Mastodon. In checking out their site, I found a bit more:
Nitter is a free and open source alternative Twitter front-end focused on privacy and performance. The source is available on GitHub at https://github.com/zedeus/nitter
- All requests go through the backend, client never talks to Twitter
- Uses Twitter’s unofficial API (no rate limits or developer account required)
- Lightweight (for @nim_lang, 60KB vs 784KB from twitter.com)
- RSS feeds
Open source? Awesome. No JS or ads? Even better. But the best part: All requests go through the backend, client never talks to Twitter
Basically, if you go to https://nitter.net/nytimes , you’ll see a mirrored version of the NY Times Twitter account, free from Twitter entirely, replies and all. You can’t interact with the posts because you would need an account to be able to do that and Nitter is just an aggregator of sorts, but for my purposes it is plenty.
And if you add
/rss to the end of any URL, well you suddenly have an RSS feed for that account that you can follow with your favorite RSS reeder.
EDIT (10/23): The main nitter.net site mentioned above/below no longer works, but there are a list of other working instances to be found here. So instead of using “nitter.net”, just use something that is listed as “Working” like nitter.cz
EDIT: After posting this, some people pinged me to say that they couldn’t get Nitter to work in some RSS readers, like NetNewsWire or Inoreader. So YMMV with this technique but I know it worked fine with Reeder.
Now for the bit of a bummer with using Nitter - you have to follow each account individually as a separate RSS feed, you can’t just follow the “Home” feed like what was available through other RSS clients, because that requires authenticating through Twitter.
For my three separate Twitter accounts, I paired things down even more but still ended up with about 120 accounts that I wanted to follow, which I am sure is a lot but for now is where I’m starting - I can always continue to pair down. And yes, that meant going to all 120 sites at
https://nitter.net/TWITTER-ACCOUNT/rss and plugging each feed into Reeder, which took about an hour.
Was it annoying? Yes. Was it worth it to avoid Twitter? Absolutely.
The other draw back I noticed is that if you follow someone who has their account set to private, you can’t see their posts (which makes sense because you aren’t actually “following” them).
If I come across any other limitations besides your time and private accounts, I’ll be sure to update this post.
Otherwise though, I am very happy with Nitter and would recommend it to anyone else who is in my scenario, where they still want to keep up with a few people still stuck on Twitter but don’t want to use Twitter itself.
I’m a bit concerned that Nitter uses Twitter’s “unofficial” API and my hope is that Musk doesn’t have code changed to prevent it (I wouldn’t put it past him), but for now I think this solution will serve my needs.
I hate that it takes such an elaborate method to do something that, 6 months ago, was incredibly simple and easy. And to be honest, I probably should just re-evaluate my news consumption to see about getting away from Twitter entirely but that’s a post for another day. I’m more than willing to continue to dance around all the road blocks that Musk throws up, partially because I’m not willing to 100% part with Twitter but also…well, out of spite for ruining what had been a fairly enjoyable experience with social media.
Hopefully though, this post was useful for you. And if you want to follow me - no RSS reader required - you can find me at https://drupal.community/@hotsauce