Can Twitter Apps kill Twitter itself?



My obsession with Twitter started last week only, when I decided to finally start using it for “I don’t know what” purpose! But since everyone in the market looks so freaked out about Twitter, I had to delve into it. At first I was clueless.

What to tweet? How to get followers? Whom to follow? Which Apps to get? I had read some articles from Guy Kawasaki related to ‘marketing on twitter’ and some lessons too! But web 2.0 is something you can’t understand unless you experiment on own (No wonder why Google wave users are still clueless what to use it for?).

Hence, I started! I was aware of some tools like threadsy, Digsby etc but wasn’t really using them. So I started creating my logins in each one of them. Its amazing that how such services try to solve the same problem with different interfaces and still get loads of users :-). I liked Digsby a lot as it has cool handy icons for Desktop which keeps me updated of my mail, tweets and facebook statuses. Then I downloaded Tweetdeck, it goes a step further as it’s a desktop tool (which has a cool interface and uses Adobe Air) and it can keep track of various tweets based on keywords one is searching for.

After working on all such tools, I understood that I needed more- and then I found Hootsuite. Hootsuite suited best to me, it’s a web application and it has got many useful features- we can create tabs/columns for different social media sites, keywords, groups, twitter lists etc and can quickly update our tweets/statuses over any network we have added on the site. It has a statistics tool too, which can give really cool stats about your tweets. Since it also shortens my URL I felt like never going back to twitter again.

What? Is it true? Are twitter kids more intelligent and helpful then their parent? This thought started bugging my mind. By this time I was only going to twitter to check my followers or to follow someone. But then I found apps to manage my followers list as well- My Tweeple, twittercounter can do so many things which it’s parent website can’t. There are loads and loads of twitter apps, twitvid for videos, twitpic for picture sharing, twitterfeed for automatically posting tweets, etc etc.

Then I learnt this on Twitter’s aboutus page-

“Twitter has many appealing opportunities for generating revenue but we are holding off on implementation for now because we don’t want to distract ourselves from the more important work at hand which is to create a compelling service and great user experience for millions of people around the world. While our business model is in a research phase, we spend more money than we make.”

My only question is that by the time twitter is actually researching, what happens if such apps start generating revenues from some of the models on which twitter is also working? Twitter spends most of its time in managing millions of tweets which come from various sources and applications. And for these apps it just takes a week to come up with a new feature which further puts load on Twitter servers. Hootsuite has already got Alexa rating near to 600 in US and gets millions of pageviews, what if they are the first to start serving ads/paid content from advertisers/publishers?

Facebook and other social networks don’t fall into this category, as most of the apps for facebook/orkut/linkedIn are to be used inside these websites. But Twitter falls prey to this because of their simplistic approach.

I’m still a naive twitter user and don’t have 1000 followers (well you can follow me @idubba :-)), and I may be wrong in my hypothesis too! But I think I’m asking a valid question here. What do you think?

  1. rabi gupta says

    Hi Mandar,

    So it looks like Twitter is counter-attacking its Apps. Wow! this shows that power always wins over fairness ;)

  2. rabi gupta says

    ppl if you don’t know about plz check
    They are already going to capitalize on something which twitter is trying to do!! Wht do you think?

  3. rabi gupta says

    @ akhil, thanks bro :)
    @ Mandar, some very valid points you put. But let me present one mr point of view here-
    – Even chaitannya said about the Fan following of Twitter! But Fans can switch sides fast. Twitter fans like twitter because it started this all, but suppose twitter starts playing it bad by making life difficult for apps or by changing its structure so that those apps need to make many changes. Then such moves can quickly backfire, thieir own strategy. Just another point of view.

    1. Mandar Shinde says

      @ rabi, twitter might not necessarily playing it bad; it would come out as just another change in platform. Still, agree with your point, fans can switch fast!

  4. akhilsethi says

    First of all thanks to Rabi for writing that beautiful post. I didn’t knew that twitter’s business model is still in the research phase n they r even spending more than what they r earning. It will be very interesting to know what twitter comes up with after this research phase because even now we have so many other application that provide almost every kind of services/facilities either i.e. url shortening, posting pics, videos etc etc.

    I say it interesting coz v hear so much that every now n den, some new application is entering in the mkt. & as Rabi raised the pointed that may be those applications r the things on which twitter may b workg on….!! Who knows…????

  5. Mandar Shinde says

    The biggest strength of twitter is that it’s the platform, which users rely on and applications run on. Say, if one of these applications provider launches its own social networking site (with no connection with twitter), would it be as popular as twitter? That highlights twitter’s place in the market.

    I would like to quote example of Microsoft Outlook. When people were using Outlook 2003 for their Gmail accounts, they used to set some port values for incoming and outgoing google servers. When they shifted from Outlook 2003 to Outlook 2007, the port values had to be changed (while there’s no change at all on the web version of Gmail). There were users who switched back to Gmail web version to avoid transition losses (as the web version – being original, was and is always more reliable).

    With whatever investment these twitter application providers are building their ‘killer’ applications, they are bound to rework when twitter initiates any change in its platform. This might be the reason why twitter doesn’t seem much worried about these apps, while it might be working on a major structural change (of course, assuming loyalty of its users, even after the change).

  6. Frank Podlaha says

    As a Twitter tool developer, I do see a day for paying for the API. Sure, I don’t like the sound of that. But really, it would be fair. They have the commodity: tweets, an endless stream of thoughts and communication. If I turn it into something useful for my clients, there is no denying I could pay a little for that privilege.

  7. Madhav Shivpuri says

    I agree with Chaitannya’s suggestion that Twitter could get a revenue share from the apps or even just charge for API calls as a monetization strategy. Its seems much better and logical than trying to build every conceivable app by themselves.

  8. chaitannya mahatme says

    Google and Microsoft is using Twitter for their realtime search. Twitter puts a cap on api calls to harvest data (100 per hour) .. if Twitter sees revenues earned by hoot suite or Twitterdeck then they can always collab with them for a rev share. So in all revenue model for Twitter shd not be concern for them as they have such a huge fan following.

    1. rabi gupta says

      hey chaitannya some very gud info u gave thr (about harvest data), but my only question is- because of the traffic twitter must be struggling with managing that part most of the time, and these other startups take just a week to build new apps. Why can’t Twitter make 2-3 of such apps and embed on homepage itself? I knw thr may be other concerns too with twitter team, but why share revenues for all the hard work which one has done alone?

  9. Vishal Sanjay says

    I heard somewhere that 40% of Twitters visitors don’t come back, usually because they are used to third party Twitter products, its a good thing Twitter doesn’t depend on CPM advertising. Twitter has to solve this problem either making their home better than the third party apps or put restrictions on those apps.

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