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Twitter Raising The Infrastructure: App Builders Better Run For The Ultrastructure

So, Fred Wilson’s recent blog post (see Fred Wilson Plotting Twitter’s Future) turns out not to have been the ramblings of philosophical market observer: it looks more like the starter’s gun at the outset of a footrace.

He suggested that Twitter might start to fill ‘holes’ in its architecture, holes that may be occupied by other applications built by third parties. Then, the next day, they announced the roll out of a ‘official’ Twitter client for Blackberry, and today, Ev announced the acquisition of Atebits, the maker of Tweetie, the most popular iPhone client:

Ev Williams, Twitter for iPhone

Twitter has been growing by leaps and bounds around the world. Mobile has always been a focus for us—starting with SMS which lead to the 140 character limit. People everywhere should be able to access Twitter without friction or confusion. Careful analysis of the Twitter user experience in the iTunes AppStore revealed massive room for improvement. People are looking for an app from Twitter, and they’re not finding one. So, they get confused and give up. It’s important that we optimize for user benefit and create an awesome experience.

We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve entered into an agreement with Atebits (aka Loren Brichter) to acquire Tweetie, a leading iPhone Twitter client. Tweetie will be renamed Twitter for iPhone and made free (currently $2.99) in the iTunes AppStore in the coming weeks. Loren will become a key member of our mobile team that is already having huge impact with device makers and service providers around the world. Loren’s work won the 2009 Apple Design Award and we will eventually launch Twitter for iPad with his help.

Note there is no fiddle-faddle about the name: they immediately rebranded to ‘Twitter for iPhone’.

And the motivation? People are confused that there is no Twitter branded client, so Twitter has decided to do the right thing and give them one. No mention of the existing players in those niches, and all a week before the developers conference.

Here’s what is happening: Twitter is consolidating its position at the center of the ecosystem it has engendered, and as part of that functionality that is deemed necessary to the infrastructure is going to be built by them, or at least owned by them through acquisition.

The old model had a lot of holes, like search, clients, Url shortening, pictures, and geolocation. These niches had many players trying to establish themselves, creating a rich ultrastructure above the platform:

Twitter started to buy some companies to fill glaring holes (like Summize for search) and they have built some parts of other capabilities (like their own URL shortener for direct messages), but mostly the maps was still a mess.

Now, they have bought Tweetie, built a client for Blackberry, and they are moving toward a new theory of where the platform begins and ends:


Of course there is no saying that Twitter will leave the line there. They are going to have to make their roadmap clear at the upcoming Chirp developer conference, so that third parties can make reasonable investments in new applications without the fear that Twitter will step on their toes.

However, I am making a bet. I am sure that Twitter realizes the value of analytics: the treasure of information about the flow in Twitter can’t be treated as a side show, because it is the show. Therefore, I am predicting that Twitter will build or buy technology to capture all sorts of information — what links are streaming by, who’s using what hashtags, and sentiment about brands — this is enormously valuable. Acquisition of companies like Radian6, bit.ly and a few others would make sense, especially considering the value to large companies, media, and even political parties.


The other ultrastructure niches really make sense as independents. Consider games: they come and go, like hit music, and it requires a big sprawling community of developers. Not a good fit inside a single monolithic company. The same is true with communities, like Stocktwits. And obviously, niche apps.

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So, Wilson’s shot was heard round the world, and now Tweetie is part of the new Twitter infrastructure.

This won’t mean the end of competition by players like Tweetdeck or Seesmic. These have large and dynamic communities of users. But we have to see how Twitter plays this nesw game. Will they use the same APIs as everyone else, or will they exploit their knowledge and access to the inner workings of Twitter’s technology to make their own offerings faster and more reliable, a sort of Microsoft approach? Will Twitter transform itself into a Salesforce-like platform, with hundreds of integrated offerings, but owning the CRM heart of the platform?

I am sure we will hear these questions at Chirp, and although I won’t be attending (conflict with work on my own event on 19 Apr, Social Business Edge), I will be watching the Twitter stream from the event very closely.

[disclosure: Bit.ly is a client of mine, and I have a financial interest in the company.]

Update on Saturday, April 10, 2010 at 1:01PM

This looks like the weekend’s big tech news story:

Daniel Ionescu / PC World:   Twitter Gets Official iPhone, Blackberry Apps Dare Obasanjo aka Carnage4Life:   Twitter Slaps Developers in the Face and How They Can Fix It Greg Jarboe / Search Engine Watch:   Newspaper Blogs Break Story of Twitter’s Acquisition of Tweetie Marshall Kirkpatrick / ReadWriteWeb:   Why Twitter Buying Tweetie is Great News Stowe Boyd / /message:   Twitter Raising The Infrastructure: App Builders Better Run For The Ultrastructure John C Abell / Epicenter:   With Tweetie Acquisition, Twitter Locks On Mobile Zee / The Next Web:   Twitter Acquires Tweetie. Launches on the iPhone. Mathew Ingram / Fortune:   Twitter nabs top app maker Brad Linder / mobiputing:   Twitter acquires Tweetie, introduces official iPhone Twitter app Dave Winer / Scripting News:   Twitter Week for client developers Mark Evans / Twitterrati:   Tweetie: The Start of Twitter’s M&A Activity? Ben Parr / Mashable!:   BREAKING: Twitter Acquires Tweetie CellPassion:   Twitter acquires Tweetie, to make it the official Twitter iPhone app Dan Moren / Macworld:   Twitter acquires Tweetie developer Atebits Shane Richmond / blogs.telegraph.co.uk:   Twitter buys Tweetie Stephen Bennett / GeekSmack:   Twitter acquires Tweetie for iPhone Kiet Chieng / App Advice:   Twitter Acquires Tweetie, Will Become Official Client On iPhone Jason Kincaid / TechCrunch:   Twitter Acquires Tweetie GigaOm / Silicon Alley Insider:   Twitter Buys Tweetie, Adds Fuel to Developer Fires Rafat Ali / paidContent:   Twitter Makes First Client Acquisition: Buys Tweetie For iPhone Client; What’s Next? Alexia Tsotsis / The Snitch:   Twitter, Now Filling Its Own Hole Peter Kafka / MediaMemo:   Twitter Goes Shopping, Comes Home With Tweetie. Next? Mike Schramm / TUAW:   Breaking: Twitter acquires Tweetie, will make it official and free Seth Weintraub / 9 to 5 Mac:   Twitter buys Tweetie, iPhone app to become free Charles Hudson’s Weblog:   Three Reminders about Platform Businesses (Apple, Twitter, and Facebook) Jay Hathaway / Download Squad:   Twitter acquires Tweetie, hires developer Loren Brichter Rene Ritchie / TiPb:   Tweetie to become official Twitter for iPhone Jim Dalrymple / The Loop:   Twitter buys Tweetie Ray Basile / iPhone Savior:   Twitter Buys Tweetie As Their Official iPhone App Phil Nickinson / Android Central:   Twitter buys Tweetie for iPhone; which Android client would you serve up? Krishnan Subramanian / diversity.net.nz:   Twitter Acquires Tweetie, What’s Next? Jesse David Hollington / iLounge:   Twitter acquires Tweetie, to become official Twitter app Krishnan Subramanian / CloudAve:   Twitter Acquires Tweetie, What’s Next? Scott Beale / Laughing Squid:   Twitter Acquires Tweetie iPhone Client Ben Metcalfe Blog:   Twitter continues on the offensive: now iPhone Federico Viticci / MacStories:   Twitter Acquires Tweetie, Becomes “Twitter for iPhone” Soon Free in the App Store Daniel Kaszor / FP Posted:   FP Tech Desk: Twitter aquires Tweetie, renames it Twitter for iPhone » All Related Discussion

Update on Sunday, April 11, 2010 at 9:18AM

Interesting piece by VC Mark Suster (Twitter’s Acquisition, Chirp & Managing Developer Relationships) on the Twitter Atebits acquisition and what it means.

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