Initial feedback from parts of the Twitter developer community on the acquisition of Tweetie from last week was pretty heated. Tweetie is a popular client for the iPhone, written by a single developer (Loren Brichter). The reason they bought it is to let the "mainstream user" find a Twitter client for the iPhone without the cognitive load of "which of these 3rd party apps is better using Twitter?" This will increase Twitter adoption and will increase traffic by existing adopters and is in line with their mobile strategy as shown on the Blackberry.
Overall this shows me that Twitter is maturing, developing business models and making acquisitions as appropriate. There is a growing market here and Twitter's acquisition was a bid to be as mainstream as possible given their competition with Facebook for the heart of the web.
The comparisons with Microsoft will be inevitable, but when you're in the platform business it's actually friendlier to purchase parts of the partner ecosystem than to launch a competitive product. The ecosystem then shifts and development starts somewhere else. It's impossible to grow a platform without upsetting part of your community, but you can make it up to them by showing them where the new opportunities are and staying consistent with the platform vision.
What this acquisition shows is twofold - that Twitter is committed to being a platform, and that "my app is Twitter for the Foo device" is not a value proposition that will last very long. Fred Wilson from Union Square Ventures (an investor in Twitter) spelled this out in a post earlier this week.
So while there is some very real short-term gnashing of teeth, this was an inevitable move that demonstrates the strategy they need if the service is to be successful at scale (100s of millions to billions of users). It tells me that there will be much more development to come, doing much more valuable things - including examples from Raffi Krikorian's post below:
- [I] don't have time to sit and watch twitter 24/7/365. while i love to scan through my timeline, frankly, that's a lot of content. can you summarize it for me? can you do something better than chronological sort?
- [I] want to understand what's going on around them. how do i discover people talking about the place i currently am? how do i know this restaurant is good? this involves user discovery, place discovery, content analysis, etc.
- [I] want to see what people are talking about a particular tv show, news article, or any piece of live-real-world content in real time. how can twitter be a "second/third/fourth screen" to the world?
To compare a couple of new, growing, and very cool Twitter-related technologies:
- StockTwits is non-core and won't be acquired, and represents a long-term differentiated market opportunity.
- Publitweet looks like it could end up being core (it is a Facebook-like rendering of Twitter traffic geared for using Twitter as a media publishing platform).
These are just my opinions. After living in a platform-based technology world for many years and 5 years working at Microsoft in platform strategy, I think: that the Twitter plan is a good one, that the ecosystem is alive and well, and that the Twitter ecosystem is a great place to make long-term bets on building value.