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Twitter CEO says tweet archiving to come end of this year – hopefully

Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter, has once more said Twitter will make good on its promise to users that we will someday soon be able to download our entire archive of tweets – possibly before the end of the year. 

This morning at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy, Costolo spoke about Twitter’s role in communications and mentioned for the third time (the first mention taking place at the New York Times in July and the second at the Online News Association Conference in September) that the downloading feature was coming, by the end of this year – although Twitter engineers may not be quite as confident. “Now, again, once again, I caveat this with the engineers who are actually doing the work don’t necessarily agree that they’ll be done by the end of the year, but we’ll just keep having that argument and we’ll see where we end up year end,” Costolo said.

For those of you that are anxious to get your tweets offline and into a hard copy, there are a few alternatives out on the market. For one you can turn to a site like TweetDownload.net, where all of your tweets are downloadable. But it’s only feasible for up to 3,200 tweets. Right now, per Twitter’s API guidelines for user timelines, the social network has restricted access to the number of tweets that you crawl to just 3,200 tweets. The more prolific tweeters will be forced to wait until Twitter’s engineering team pulls through with Costolo’s promise. Users could however get creative and use apps like Twinbox, BackupMyTweets, TweetBackup, or even Evernote to archive your content as you’re tweeting instead of doing so after the fact.

One organization that’s taking archiving tweets into its own hands is the Library of Congress, which has been working since 2010 on conserving every single public tweet that’s existed. It hopes to archive even tweets dating back to 2006, when Twitter was founded. But the task is no small order, and would require a team of engineers even more skilled than Twitter’s own to keep up with the pace of tweets that are being published daily. Just last month, Costolo divulged at the Internet Advertising Bureau’s Engage conference in the U.K. that Twitter users were collectively publishing 500 million tweets per day. It’s 100 million more tweets than what users were publishing back in June of this year.

With this in mind, it’s a tremendous undertaking for the Twitter engineers to create a framework that supports archiving for its 500 million users when in fact Twitter’s architecture is suited to real-time search and real-time distribution, Costolo explained. “It’s really horribly suited to archive search and archive distribution. So if you wanted to do a search against our user database, our user database for that entire history, it would be so slow that it would slow down the rest of the real-time distribution of things.” During the election alone Twitter was serving 15,000 tweets per second.

But a promise is a promise. Whether a feature for archiving tweets arrives by the year’s end is up for debate, but at the least it’s a feature that Twitter is determined to introduce.

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