Twitter has become one of the most influential websites in the world with more than 105 million registered users, 180 million unique visitors per month, and 600 million searches per day. Twitter ranks second in the search market, merely left behind by Google. Twitter’s success isn’t just based on its innovative concept of using simple messages to share and communicate with the world. If you carefully analyze the traffic data, you will find 75% of traffic comes from outside of Twitter itself. This means many more people use supported applications and tools than Twitter.com.
Twitter’s business strategies led to this bloom in Twitter applications. The core business of Twitter is to develop, maintain, and administrate Twitter.com. For those interested in developing innovative applications based on its platform, Twitter releases open APIs; this allows creators to access the content on Twitter without barriers or difficulties. Twitter’s huge traffic also attracts application developers who enrich Twitter’s user experience in return for a share of the revenues.
This win-win strategy may have been jeopardized when Twitter founder Evan Williams announced just over a month ago that the company would be buying Tweetie, an iPhone app that had been for sale in the App Store for $2.99. The updated app was released today as Twitter for iPhone and is now available in the App Store for free. According to Twitter, users had been looking for an official app in the store and “we didn’t have one, so they generally got confused and gave up.”
Twitter’s acquisition of Tweetie has aroused concerns that Twitter is going to change its business strategy and compete directly with third party developers who are making Twitter applications that Twitter until now has deemed to be mere “hole fillers.” An official app is often in a superior position to catch user eyeballs. If Twitter really decides to step into the application market, third party developers who create similar applications to Twitter’s will find it hard to compete with Twitter. Many Twitter application developers are upset because Twitter had originally promised it wouldn’t compete with them.
It will be interesting to see if Twitter’s acquisition of Tweetie will scare away application developers, who may choose to spend their time on other social networks if they think Twitter cannot be trusted not to compete with their apps. If so, will we see fewer innovative and successful Twitter applications in the future?