And so the worst kept secret in Social Media has been revealed. Twitter today purchased third-party application ‘Tweetdeck for the princely sum of £25 million. The deal has made the UK developer behind the app, Iain Dodsworth and overnight millionaire, but I do fear what all this may mean for the future of Twitter.
Twitter itself grew pretty slowly in the early days, like pretty much all new web start ups. But they had a clever plan, by opening up their API, other developers were able to make their own applications to access the site. These apps would often be easier than the often clunky website and offer many new features, whilst at the same time spreading the word about Twitter itself. It was an ingenious idea for Twitter to get noticed and add new ways to view the site without having to do a single thing – the third parties developed it all for them.
But then Twitter got big, got some cash and decided it didn’t like all these other developers stealing the limelight from them. Around this time last year, they purchased the popular mobile phone app Tweetie and turned it into the official Twitter app. Then earlier this year, they restricted what developers could do with their apps, removing ads which made the products money and asking them not to mimic the current Twitter apps (basically you can’t use the standard timeline format). The reason cited for this was that these fragmented apps cause confusion for users of the site.
But the thing is, that isn’t the true reason behind the decision. Within the last year, Twitter has started allowing adverts on the web version in the form of promoted Tweets and users. These often do not show up in the apps – something which obviously dents Twitter’s revenue. By buying up the popular apps out there and restricting the others, Twitter is essentially forcing it’s users to use their products and thus brings more money to the business.
You can see why they were interested in Tweetdeck, it’s the second most popular way to access the network after the web-based version. With 20 million downloads, it’s a massive amount of users which Twitter will want for themselves as a form of making more money in the future.
The sad thing is, I can see this wide and far fetching world that is Twitter, becoming a bit too generic. You could argue that the way we access networks isn’t that important, but I disagree. I love the choice of apps available – it gives different users a chance to experience the site as best for them as well as pushing for further innovation in how we access the web itself.
By buying up the apps and reducing access to others, Twitter are destroying the very thing that made them great in a desperate attempt to monetize the site quickly. And it will probably work for them, but at the cost of some of the diversity and innovation that the network brought us.
What happens next to TweetDeck is unknown. It’s unlikely that Twitter will want to have two official apps and so will probably end up integrating the TD design into the official app at some point, with options to add the extra settings used by the so called ‘power users’ in TweetDeck. Or maybe, they’ll leave it as it is (except with promoted tweets more prominent) and let a small piece of Twitter diversity remain.