Twitter recently bought my favorite iPhone app Tweetie and announced that it would become the official Twitter app for the iPhone. They also said it would now be free. Unsurprisingly, there was a lot of hand-wringing from the Twitter developing community (and some great t-shirts), but as Chris Dixon wrote, “Until Twitter has a successful business model, they can’t have a consistent strategy and third parties should expect erratic behavior and even complete and sudden shifts in strategy.”
The reason that Twitter bought Tweetie is that they are no longer content to own the platform, they also want to own the user experience. With this increased interest in the user experience, Twitter has changed their ability to impact the customer ecosystem and how they may try and monetize in the future.
Consider how Twitter looked a few days ago:
While acquisition efforts continue to be strong on the basis of a viral growth and an evangelist userbase, there existed serious problems with Twitter’s customer ecosystem. By positioning themselves as a platform, Twitter had enabled literally hundreds of developers/companies to build a user experience for Twitter users. The result, however, was a little bit of a mess. If you’re using a Twitter client ad it’s slow or loads incorrectly you have to go find another client. The whole process of getting a client (mobile or otherwise) adds to the complexity of onboarding a new user. I think the simplicity of the Twitter website is why it seems to be the most used client.
My personal experience was probably similar to many others: started on twitter.com; drawn to other apps because of advance features; returned to twitter.com for simplicity and performance. The purchase of Tweetie, syncs well with the news that Twitter.com has a major redesign on the way.
Twitter has always banked on simplicity, a simple four input registration, simple communication tools (@ replies, RT, etc.) and now Tweetie… simplest, cleanest, iPhone app around. It must have killed Twitter to see these bloated apps from Seesmic, Tweetdeck, etc.
Twitter has given up being just a platform, they want to control the user experience from end-to-end. Personally, I don’t blame them.
A platform is great, but when the user experience suffers it can cause a lag in user growth or impact the revenue potential of the platform, then you must take steps to be more involved in the user experience. Much like Apple with the iPhone and Facebook, Twitter is realizing that a tighter grip on the user experience is probably the right path toward user growth and revenue.
So, now Twitter has a customer ecosystem under control, the next step will be how to monetize it. I’ve already posited on why I think advertising is the wrong path for Twitter, but I see little downside for closely managing the user experience. Tweetie is/was a great app and this acquisition bodes well for Twitter users from a user experience standpoint.