Twitter April 9 purchased Atebits, maker of the popular iPhone application only hours after Research In Motion launched the public beta of a Twitter for BlackBerry application. The buy also came two days after Twitter investor Fred Wilson suggested companies such as Tweetie shoudn't waste time building out such tools because Twitter will buy or build them itself. Some Twitter third-party developers bristled at this notion, seeing it as a threat to their programming survival for Twitter, which has some 70 million users.
Twitter April 9 said it purchased Atebits, maker
of a popular iPhone application for the microblogging platform, in a move that underscores the value of mobile apps.
The purchase, unveiled the same day Research In Motion launched
the public beta of a Twitter for BlackBerry
application, curiously came two days after a Twitter
board member suggested startups such as Tweetie could be in trouble if Twitter
decided to start filling holes in its platform.
Perhaps the only trouble Atebits founder Loren Brichter
is having is where to spend his newfound riches. Twitter co-founder Evan Williams said in a
brief blog post the app will be named Tweetie for the iPhone and made available
to users free soon.
"Careful analysis of the Twitter user experience in the
iTunes App Store revealed massive room for improvement," Williams
. "People are looking for
an app from Twitter, and they're not finding one. So, they get confused and
give up. It's important that we optimize for user benefit and create an awesome
Hence, the Atebits buy for Tweetie, whose creator
Brichter joined Apple out of college to work on Apple's iPhone. Williams and Brichter
himself confirmed he would continue to work on Tweetie for iPhone and will
craft Twitter for iPad.
"Some amazing stuff will soon be possible, both in
terms of simplifying the Twitter experience and in allowing people to use
Twitter any place they might be," Brichter
The acquisition makes sense and takes on a special shine
in the wake of comments about the commercial viability of such products made by
prominent venture capitalist Fred Wilson, whose Union Square Ventures has invested in
argued in a blog post
April 7 that
certain third-party Twitter apps, including Tweetie and Twitter photo uploading
client Twitpic could be acquired or phased out once Twitter begins filling
holes in its young platform.
Wilson likened the trend to General Computer, which enjoyed
success making external hard drives for the original Macintosh in the '80s, but
"faded away as Apple filled in the holes in the Macintosh product."
Wilson suggested third-party developers instead focus on key areas, such as social
gaming, analytics and other verticals.
Some Twitter third-party developers bristled at this
notion, seeing it as a threat to their programming survival for Twitter, which
has some 70 million users.
Some believed Wilson's post was a warning and a
wake-up call, and even speculated
that the move came with Twitter's blessing to soften the blow to third-party
programmers looking to make a living building Twitter apps.
The public may never know the truth of why the post came
two days before Twitter bid to buy Tweetie, which also came less than a week
before Twitter's first developer conference, Chirp.
Williams assured in comments to the New York Times
and in his post on Tweetie that
there is plenty of room at Twitter's table for those who build the right
product during the company's growth.
"As we work to provide the best possible Twitter
experience on all of the major mobile platforms, momentum will increase
dramatically," Williams wrote. "Millions more active, engaged, mobile
users means more opportunities for all of us."
aren't putting their total faith in Twitter. Loic Le Meur, founder of Twitter desktop
client Seesmic.com, wrote
that while it's "a step
towards serious competition with its ecosystem":
"Interesting Twitter launches its own first mobile
client a few days before its first platform ecosystem conference. What's the
message being sent to developers? I am actually not worried, I think no one
should depend only on one platform and that's what we're doing while keeping a
close partnership with Twitter."
There is no shortage of anger burbling around
Twitter's third-party developer ecosystem, which includes 50,000-plus
programmers. Read their comments on the #unionoftwitterapps