Tuesday, 18 May 2010 10:57

Twitter risks alienating developers: analyst


An analyst firm has warned Twitter that releasing its own mobile apps could backfire.

Twitter's relationship with its developer community is becoming "increasingly strained" according to analyst firm Ovum.

The decision to offer its own mobile applications is having a negative effect on relationships with the developer community, and the firm suggests Twitter should urgently provide developers with a clear roadmap of where its own in-house development efforts are heading.

"As Twitter matures, it is inevitable that the company will want to produce or acquire more in-house applications, and there is always a certain inherent tension between developers and platform owners," said Eden Zoller, principal analyst at Ovum and author of the report 'Twitter grows up and gets serious'.

"However, Twitter needs to be very careful not to alienate the developer community as they drive innovation for the service and also traffic. It should be remembered that applications account for 75% of all tweets," explained Zoller.

Ovum's position is that developers won't want to compete directly with Twitter, which has released its own BlackBerry app, as well as acquiring and rebranding Tweetie as Twitter for iPhone.

How does Zoller think developers should respond? See page 2.

The decision to move Twitter for iPhone into the free section of the App Store is also regarded as a threat to developers who want to charge for their apps. It's always hard to provide sufficient quality or additional features to persuade people to pay when a 'good enough' app is free, but it becomes an even bigger problem when the no-cost competitor is an 'official' app.

The number of Twitter applications has doubled in the last five months to 100,000. But this growth could be choked off by Twitter's actions, Ovum warns. The company's expressed intention to enhance the platform's core experience "is not great news for developers as enhancing the core Twitter experiences is exactly what most third-party applications do," said Zoller.

"For example, a core experience that Twitter is considering taking a direct hand in is rich media such as video and photos. It also plans to launch a URL link shortener," she added.

Zoller advises developers to innovate in vertical markets and other non-traditional areas: "The first Twitter applications are well established, and as the Twitter platform matures developers will need to be more creative," she said.

That's probably true, but the world doesn't really need Yet Another Twitter Application. Well targeted apps that meet specific requirements are likely a different matter.



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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.



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