I am a fan and detractor of Twitter both at the same time. Remember, I’m a centrist so I can do that.
Did Twitter win microblogging? Hello no. Twitter won just like MySpace won social networking… just like Yahoo, Lycos, Excite, Infoseek and Altavista were the winners who were fighting for search marketshare and AOL as an ISP. Twitter has first mover advantage and huge barriers to entry with its name on TV and every catalog in America. But it can still lose. MySpace is rarely spoken of in social networking outside of music. Yahoo is shutting down its search engine this summer (and wasn’t a search engine at all in 1999 when I joined GoTo.com) and taking the remains of Altavista with it. How many people reading this even remember Lycos, Excite and Infoseek? And AOL… don’t get me started.
I’ve been known to criticize Twitter (and offer suggestions for improvement) for its lack of innovation. Twitter is a company that has trouble keeping its website up. Innovation on its website has been finally adding a Retweet system that many people don’t use in place of the user-initiated convention of the RT. There is a Twitter-made app for the Blackberry but not the iPhone or Android.
In flies Tweetie
The big news yesterday was that Twitter bought Tweetie, a company of two employees (well, an owner and one employee). One of the strangest things about this was that Twitter announced its acquisition at 6:15pm on a Friday. Um, if you close a deal late on Friday don’t you wait until Monday to announce it? Or was @Ev trying to hide it with the trash?
Why has Twitter been unable or unwilling to offer apps for the iPhone and Android. Over $100,000,000 in the bank and Twitter bought a 2-person company to do what it couldn’t? Build often makes sense but why can’t Twitter innovate on its own platform?
Good news or bad news for app developers?
The debate raging now is whether the Tweetie acquisition is good news or bad news for app developers? I would say it is tragic for Twitter app developers but good news for developers with anything that is outside of the evolutionary path of any companies that have closed platforms.
A few years ago I built statustalker with Craig Ogg and Keith Bussell. It was a Facebook app to allow people to comment on their friends’ statuses. Crazy, huh? The biggest flaw was that it couldn’t be inline with the status. Most people thought it was silly to comment on other people’s statuses at first. The other big problem was that Facebook could (and we figured would) steal it. It was a logical and necessary step in Facebook’s evolution. Now can you imagine Facebook without the ability to comment on your friends’ statuses?
Think about all of the Twitter apps like Twidroid (the one I use on Android), Seemic, etc. Dead. How about Twitpic and the other apps/sites for uploading pics to Twitter? Dead.
If you want to create Twitter app, make sure it doesn’t rely on functionality that Twitter should have or that Twitter can easily replicate and give away for free.
Apps that work
Forgetting that Zynga was built on a complete lack of ethics and shameful monetization tactics, Farmville is a great app. I don’t mean that it is an app that I will ever have a desire to use. It is a great app because there is no reason for Facebook to try to build it itself. It is not basic social networking functionality. Worrying about competitors is much better than worrying about the owner of the platform you rely on.
Scrabble is another great app (and the only Facebook app I use) and easily protected based not just on its brand recognition but more importantly Hasbro’s trademark on the game.
A Facebook app to not build
I have another Facebook app idea and I will tell everyone outside of Facebook to avoid it: Facebook Group Reader. Facebook groups suck because there is no easy way to monitor or organize them. Plus, there is no way to do that in the API. If course, if Facebook were to open it up, I’d say any apps that achieve initial success as a Facebook group reader will find themselves replaced by the functionality native to Facebook.
What should you build as a Twitter app developer? That’s a great question. Is there some functionality that can be built that is somehow protectable or that can guarantee being bought by Twitter? I’d say you’re better off building iPhone, iPad and Android apps where there isn’t an owner of the platform.
I’ve been thinking about Twitter 2.0 for a few months. Can some be the Facebook of microblogging to turn Twitter into MySpace? It’s possible. Of course, if Twitter bothers to listen to @davewiner and forget about fitting into the confines of SMS, then Twitter will be an amazing platform and will protect itself from many challengers.
Of course there is always Google which could get Google Buzz right in its second try. Only time will tell.