Twitter has long come under fire for not allowing its users to download their old tweets, and for arbitrarily limiting the time you can go back in search. There are plans to let users download their complete archive of tweets by years end, but we have no concrete information about how that’ll work. And many of us want more than just the raw data; we want a way to format, analyze, and automatically archive our Twitter lives.
These 12 web apps, tools, and services will help you on your way to a backed up, readable, and easily-studied Twitter existence.
The tool that inspired this roundup, twDocs, exports selected parts of your Twitter existence to your choice of seven file formats: PDF, Word, XML, CSV, plain text, HTML, or Excel. You can export both your tweets and those of the people you follow, along with your DMs (received or sent), mentions, and favorites, as well as mentions of other users. Just click on the option you want, specify the number of tweets to include in the results, and choose your format. TwDocs will do the rest.
You can also customize the information shown in the output file. These custom fields include reply-to, creation date, ID, source, name, screen name, and more.
Backupify for personal apps is a subscription-based service to backup your personal online data—Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, Flickr, LinkedIn, Google Drive, and more. The free option offers up to three services, 1GB of storage, a weekly backup schedule, and web-based support. Paid plans cost either $4.99 or $19.99 a month, with extra accounts and storage, daily backups, and email/phone support.
The backups themselves are fairly detailed. They can be downloaded (although getting a zip of a full backup requires a request and waiting period), and you can check out most of the information associated with an individual tweet.
Watermark grabs your tweets and the public tweets of your friends (within the limits of the Twitter API), allowing you to backup almost your entire timeline. You can sort these tweets into collections, search or browse through them, sync them to CSV files in your Dropbox account, and even use Tweet Marker to sync your reading position between Watermark and other apps. There’s also App.net support, for early adopters of the Twitter alternative. The one big caveat, though, is that Watermark costs $5 a month.
TweetBackup is a barebones, Twitter-specific version of Backupify. Unlike its big brother, the service is free — although you do need to follow @tweetbackup as part of the signup process, and it tries to tweet on your account that you’ve started using the tool (you can uncheck a box to prevent this). You also need to give TweetBackup your email address.
Once you get through the ordeal of registering, your tweets will be automatically archived. I had to manually synchronize to get my old tweets added, but new ones appeared as expected. In terms of output, you get a basic list of tweets and retweets formatted with links and time/date. This can be exported to CSV, HTML, or plain text.
BackupMyTweets comes in two flavors: free and premium. Premium costs $9.95 a year, while the free option costs a tweet that links to the service. That money gets you backups of your friends and followers lists, their tweets, your tweets, your saved searches, and 1GB of storage (or more, at an extra $2.95/GB). You can search within your backups or export them in any of four formats (JSON, CSV, PDF, XML).
The service ties-in to similar services for email, photos, and blogs. My experience with the BackupMy websites has been seriously marred, however, by painfully-long load times (your mileage may vary).
Tweet Archivist takes a different tack to the other tools in this roundup. It offers search and analysis without sign-in, and monitors your queries over time if you search while signed-in. The analysis consists of graphs about such things as common words and top users. It’s well-presented and rather slick, although I’d love to see a few more visualizations on offer. Archives can be downloaded for $9.99 a month (each), and get updated daily. You can also make an archive public and share it with the world.
You’ll need a web server with MySQL 5.0 or later and PHP 5.2 or later to use Tweet Nest, a free and open-source project with great options for customization and rudimentary extension support. It grabs all the photo and video thumbnails you’d see on the official Twitter website, plus native retweets, links, and geotagging information. You can alter the appearance and layout by changing the CSS in its config file, or create your own CSS file and link to it in the config. Upgrading Tweet Nest and maintaining your archive is simple. If you have your own server, check it out.
Another web server option is Archive My Tweets, which uses PHP and the Twitter API to create a simple web page showing all of your tweets — navigable by month — with active links to profiles, hash tags, and clients. It’s not as customizable as Tweet Nest, but being open source you can always bake in your own modifications. Installation and setup is fairly simple — although I wouldn’t necessarily call it straightforward. And you can check out the developer’s sample implementation here (I’ve also included a screenshot below).
If these web server-based solutions aren’t powerful enough for you, consider ThinkUp, which does much more than just backup and archive your tweets. It also supports Facebook, Google+, and Foursquare, offers fancy visualizations and analytical tools, and doubles as a publishing platform. You can see one implementation in action here, but there are many other ways you can put it to use. And if you don’t have your own web server, there’s always the option to use the cloud via ThinkUp’s hosting partner PHP Fog.
Twitterscribe archives your tweets, favorites, and/or retweets nightly, and allows browsing by month or searching by keyword, username, hashtag, or URL. You can export the entire archive to CSV or nicely-formatted PDF. You’ll need to submit your email address during signup, but the developers insist you won’t be spammed with messages.
The site has a clean layout and comparatively good interface, with a graph of tweets by month serving as an overview, and searching includes options to limit by date range or only tweets with links. It’s a shame that you can’t customize display information, though, and the only active links are to your profile, the permanent link of each tweet, and fully-formed links that appeared within a tweet — not hashtags, conversations, or other profiles.
Pinboard requires a one-time fee of $9.89 (which increases with the number of users signed up), with an optional archival upgrade account that costs $25 a year and enables you to save local copies of your data. It also offers auto-importing from several bookmarking services, including Delicious, Instapaper, and Pocket.
Pinboard’s focus is on bookmarking and archiving the cool and interesting things you find online, so you’ll get much more than just Twitter backup from it. But you also won’t get as full-featured a Twitter backup as some of the other options listed in this roundup.
Twistory’s hook is that it can sync your old tweets to your calendar. It’s not something that especially fits with the way I use Twitter, but I can see how this would be a killer feature for many others. The free version updates every two days and displays your last 30 days of tweets, while the $1 a month Pro upgrade allows CSV exporting, complete archives in your calendar of choice, and “multiple” updates a day.
If you have any experience with these tools and services, or others that I might have missed, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. And remember that you can always revoke access — de-authorizing the services you don’t use — from Twitter’s Connections page.