It’s never a bad time to back up your data. But for Twitter users, it’s probably more urgent than usual, with the platform’s recent…unpredictability. Mass layoffs and resignations, whiplash policy changes, and crippled infrastructure don’t instill much confidence that Twitter will remain stable even into the distant future. That’s why it’s worth considering archiving your account for posterity.
Twitter has long offered a tool for archiving account data, which right now lets you copy your data in a machine-readable format that’s portable to a select few other services. But while the tool works well for simple backups, the archives it creates aren’t particularly user-friendly. There’s no obvious way to quickly organize the tens or thousands of tweets an archive might contain, for example, or drill down within an archive for specific types of tweets and embedded media.
Fortunately, thanks to the open source community, free tools are available for those who want to exercise more control over their Twitter archives. They don’t subvert Twitter’s archive request process — you’ll need an account archive directly from Twitter to use many of the tools — but they do make working with Twitter archives less painful while expanding the usefulness of archives, at least in theory.
Note that not all tools are necessarily easy for non-developers to use. Many require knowledge of Python and other programming languages, and any tool that accesses the Twitter API needs keys from a Twitter Developer account. (Disclaimer: Don’t give the tools access to your account unless you completely trust them.) But the tools provide at least basic setup instructions to help beginners get up and running.
Manage and view Twitter archives
Perhaps the most comprehensive of the bunch is the Twitter Archive Parser, which aims to fix and/or work around some of the most glaring flaws in Twitter’s archiving system (e.g. shortening links, archiving tweets in a complex code structure, etc. .). The tool converts tweets and even direct messages into markdown, the markup language supported by most content management systems and editors, and also into HTML, complete with embedded images, videos and links.
Twitter Archive Parser goes beyond the barebones Twitter archiver functionality to replace shortened URLs with their original versions, copy tweeted images to a folder (for easy sorting), generate lists of followers and people you’re following, and download images in their original size. (By default, the Twitter archiver swaps full-sized images in tweets for smaller ones.)
If a more user-friendly archive viewing experience is all you’re after, however, the Twitter Archive Browser fits the bill. It displays the entire Twitter timeline going back to the first Tweet and allows you to browse direct message history offline. As you’d expect, the Twitter Archive Browser will remain fully functional should you delete your Twitter account, displaying all the media you’ve uploaded, including images and videos.
Extracting URLs, exporting bookmarks and deleting tweets
Another Python-based tool, Taupe, is more limited in its capabilities than, say, the Twitter Archive Parser. But it does exactly what it advertises: it pulls the URLs of your tweets, retweets, replies, tweet mentions, and likes from a personal Twitter archive. (Taupe is a generic acronym for “Twitter archive URL parser”).
Taupe takes an archive of Twitter, extracts the URLs corresponding to tweets, retweets, and so on, and generates the results in a spreadsheet format that can be used with other software and services, such as the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. While Taupe has limitations, for example because Twitter’s archive format for likes doesn’t contain a timestamp, Taupe can’t know or show exactly when individual tweets were liked – it’s one of the simplest ways to convert quickly historical Twitter data in a more usable format.
Complementing Taupe is the self-descriptive tool Export Your Twitter Bookmarks, which saves all of your Twitter bookmarks, including photos and videos and fully expanded URLs attached to tweets, in a markdown file. (Twitter’s archives don’t include bookmarked tweets.) And for bulk deleting tweets in an archive, the Twitter Archive Browser comes in handy. It can automatically delete tweets in a certain time period or containing certain keywords.
People who need a more comprehensive Twitter timeline pruning will want to try Twitter Cleaner, which can automatically delete tweets, retweets, and favorites from an archive. Twitter Cleaner can also remove entries from an active timeline, but this requires a Twitter developer account.
Organize specific things, like photos
What if you only care about artifacts specific to your Twitter account, like photos? While it’s not possible to download the entire account archive, some tools help surface only the items of interest within that archive.
For example, Twitter Photo Downloader processes your Twitter archive to create a local database containing all your photos. This will also work for image galleries and photos from retweets, though not for videos and GIFs. (You’ll see a single still frame instead of a GIF.) Twitter Archive Parser is even more pared-down. The tool converts individual tweets into an archive to PDF for archival purposes.
Well, those are all the open source tools we’ve spotted so far for managing Twitter archives. If we have missed any, please feel free to email us and we will see if we can add them to the list.