Not all the bots on Twitter are spammers or democracy hackers. You may recall seeing requests to the Thread Reader app bot to “unroll” a long thread into readable copy, for example, and in more recent days you may have spotted Twitter users tagging a newer bot, @this_vid, on tweets with a video file attached. The handy bot (aka DownloadThisVideo) offers a way to download both videos and GIFs from Twitter’s site for easier offline viewing.
The idea for @this_vid comes from Shalvah Adebayo, a backend developer born and raised in Nigeria, and currently living in Lagos. Shalvah says he got into development back in 2013, during his final year of secondary school (high school).
“There was a kid in a lower class that people talked about in awe — ‘he knows programming!,’” explains Shalvah. “I had no idea what it was then,” he continues. “I watched a command-line quiz application he’d made, and I was impressed. I’d won a laptop in a competition a few months back, so the next day, I walked into the only computer shop I knew and asked them for ‘Programming videos.’ They gave me something on C++. I watched those at home that day and went back the next day to buy the actual software (the IDE). That was how I started writing C++,” he says.
Since then, Shalvah moved from C++ to Android development, then web development. He went to university and then quit, and began working in the tech industry. Today, Shalvah works full-time as a remote software engineer for an engineering consultancy and product design company in South Africa called Deimos Cloud.
He builds apps in his spare time as side projects, and has previously open-sourced other bots like @RemindMe_OfThis, which lets you set reminders by tweets, and TwitterThrowback, which is like Twitter’s version of Facebook’s “On This Day” feature.
However, the Twitter video downloader bot has become one of his more popular creations, and is now seeing around 7,500 user requests per day, and as many as 9,500 at peak times.
Shalvah explains he got the idea because it was a personal pain point. Internet access where he lives can be spotty, and the Twitter app’s video experience was not ideal. He said he preferred to download the videos to watch them offline, but couldn’t find any easy way to do so.
“I knew of a couple of sites and apps that did that, but I don’t like installing apps, and I didn’t like the friction involved in using a site,” the developer says. “Plus, I wanted an asynchronous process, where you could just say ‘hey, I want to download this’ and continue browsing Twitter and come back later to pick up your download.”
Plus, Shalvah says he saw a lot of other Twitter users asking how they can get the video posted in nearly every popular thread where someone had tweeted a video.
The bot, @this_vid, has been up and running since May 2018. After sending it out first to his own followers, Shalvah then began to point people to it whenever he saw them asking on a thread how to get a particular video that was shared. This led to its increasing popularity around Twitter.
“I think it really solved a problem for a lot of people, and that was what made it so popular. So there were quite a lot of people, both friends and strangers, that tweeted about it to their followers, and it just kind of grew organically,” he says.
There are some videos that @this_vid can’t download, because the poster — often a sports organization (e.g. The NFL ) — has restricted it from downloads. But in most cases, all you need to do is mention @this_vid in a reply to the original tweet, and you’ll receive a link with the video download in a few minutes.
The bot works by querying the Twitter API for the tweet data, and then retrieves the media URL along with a few other fallbacks.
Because Twitter is rate-limited, allowing the bot only 300 tweets every three hours, Shalvah made the download link for each user easy to remember at: download-this.video/Twitter_username. That way you can get to your downloads even when the bot can’t reply.
There’s some concern that people could download videos they don’t have the rights to through a bot like this, or publish them elsewhere and take credit. Shalvah says he doesn’t believe the bot is in violation of Twitter’s copyright policy, developer terms or rules.
So far, most people seem to be using the bot for personal use. But Twitter hasn’t always been kind to third-party developers, so it remains to be seen how long @this_vid will last.
Shalvah says he intends to keep @this_vid free and will continue to develop it.