While Twitter had an amazing idea on its hands when it first launched, one thing it lacked was any way to interact with it beyond its somewhat clunky Web interface. Luckily the company had the foresight to release a rather robust API (Application Programming Interface), and the third-party applications began coming out at a frightening pace. There were times where it literally felt like another dozen or so were coming out every hour. Many people credit the feverent developer community that blossomed around the site with its growing popularity as it made it so darn simple to use.
The problem with situations such as this is that the company finally takes notice of what is happening, and there is nothing to stop them from coming in and releasing an official application that will immediately become the preferred program. That is exactly what is happening right now in the mobile Twitter applications playground, and it really makes you wonder if the developers should just jump ship.
Twitter partnered up with Research In Motion (RIM) to launch an official Twitter application a few weeks ago. This was followed up on the very same day by the announcement that Twitter had purchased Atebits, the makers of the popular Tweetie application for both Mac OS X systems and the iPhone & iPod Touch. Tweetie’s designer, Loren Brichter, has joined Twitter’s mobile division and is helping them prepare an application for the iPad, in the meantime, Tweetie is being rebranded as “Twitter for iPhone” and will be re-released to the App Store for free as opposed to the $2.99 it used to cost.
Now comes the news that Twitter has released Twitter for Android. It requires Android 2.0 or higher, and sadly Sprint’s HTC Hero is still waiting for that update, or otherwise I would have already switched from TwitDroid as this looks pretty sweet.
And therein lies the problem. Why should any developer be bothering to develop for any of the mobile platforms at this point? Those that charge are almost certain to lose out to an “official” application that is free, no matter what killer feature they have over the official one. The only other option then is to go ad supported if you want to make any money, and if the feature you add is really that great, what is to stop Twitter from adding it also? You can’t stop the company from adding any of those features as its being powered by their API to begin with.
If you want to develop an app for the fun of it, and release it with or without ads, knock yourself out, but doing this as any sort of a business model is pretty much a dead horse at this point.
And just because Twitter has only done mobile apps so far, the desktop developers shouldn’t feel so safe either. Remember, Tweetie is/was on the iPhone as well as the Mac desktop. Don’t think they are going to come gunning for that also?
In their defense, Twitter has been trying to warn developers to stop trying to “plug holes” as they put it. They want you to use the API in creative and new ways. If something is obvious as a “why didn’t Twitter do that?”, chances are they will eventually. However, the halcyon days of just developing without a care in the land of Twitter is pretty clearly coming to an end. It’s time to put on those thinking caps, kiddies and get creative.
What do you think? Is Twitter right to be releasing all of these applications when so many developers have already done this work?