Things are definitely coming to a head when it comes to Twitter. The official Twitter conference, ‘Chirp’, takes place on Wednesday, April 14th, and with Evan Williams speaking about the ‘Monetisation Philosophy’, followed by Dick Costolo on ‘Monetisation’, it looks like the Twitter ad platform will arrive after much speculation.
Then there’s the post by Fred Wilson, a significant Twitter investor, about the role of developers, and the fact that the days of ‘hole filling’ by producing something simple which makes up for a gap in the original service have gone.
Then came the purchase on Friday of one-man Twitter client Tweetie, and the news that the $2.99 app would soon be rebranded ‘Twitter for iPhone’ and become a free application.
That’s not forgetting the officially-endorsed Twitter client for BlackBerry, which has since apparently had the ‘official’ term changed. Although there’s no word on what that means for Tweetie.
So in the space of a week:
- Third party advertising on Twitter could be hit in a major way.
- Clients on iPhone and BlackBerry could be hit in a major way
- ‘Simple’ apps will probably read into what’s happening that they could be hit next in a major way
- Blogs and Twitter-based websites are starting to find that Twitter is creating portals (blogs!) which serve their business, but could also hit other sites by removing valuable content areas.
There’s definitely a slight feeling of worry at the moment, whether light-hearted or more nervous, as various people wait to see what comes next.
Will Twitter continue to expand into the space formerly occupied by the vibrant Twitter ecosystem? And if so, will there be any self-imposed limit? Or should every Twitter app developer be looking to see whether they’re likely to be acquired (Not exactly a bad exit), or possibly made redundant by the Twitter expansion?
In all honesty, I’m not sure anyone knows, even at Twitter. Contrary to popular rumour, there is money coming into the company via search deals made with Google and Bing, so there hasn’t been a rush to expand and monetise. And there’s a logical point that new Twitter users without access to a mobile client may get extremely confused when presented with the huge choice available, particularly on iPhone.
There’s not much of a precedent set by previous companies either, with Blogger not being known as an app-fest in the same manner as Twitter before Google acquired it.
It seems there are still a few options for developers:
1. Develop something totally amazing, and Twitter may acquire you.
2. Develop something totally amazing which stretches across platform (That’ll be Facebook then).
3. Develop something totally amazing for another platform – one which might not be as noteworthy in the media, but might still be a way to make a decent living – for inspiration, look at developers creating businesses developing for Symbian, or even Palm, alongside iPhone, Android and BlackBerry.
And the same principle of value applies to blogging about Twitter – the likes of oneforty.com provide Twitter client/tool recommendations which have powered the readership of a number of sites, and many of the others exist on a steady diet of ‘Twitter for beginners’, ‘Twitter for Moms’, ‘Twitter for journalists who may freelance two days a week but spend the rest of the time working for a regional paper and also enjoy bowling’ type guides. (Yes, I’m talking about Twitip.com – fair play to them for having a far bigger readership than 140char, but it’s not my favourite ‘other’ blog about Twitter. If you’re going to be polygamous with your microblogging blogs, I’d probably pick Twittercism first.
So it appears as if the era of microblogging consolidation has matured – just as forum software, blogging platforms, and social networks before it (Remember when there was more than Facebook, Myspace, and er….er…)
It doesn’t preclude one-man garage developer or lone-blogger success, but it does make it tougher, with a need to find the right product, get it out there hard and fast, and keep iterating it to stay ahead. There’ll be less novelty and lightweight applications aiming to make a couple of bucks, and more investment by brands and companies in specific advertising and application tied to their ROI. Essentially this kind of hybrid Proprietary meets Open Source model has swung slightly more towards Proprietary, as it did for Microsoft in the past, and as it’s done for Facebook more recently. The question is whether there’s enough gold in Twitter left for 3rd parties to mine, or whether we could see the start of a significant move to other platforms – particularly with the huge rise of interest in mobile internet of all shapes, sizes and applications.
So where do you think Twitter is heading next? And if you’re a developer, what are your plans?