Twitter has managed to take what was initially a niche service and made it more mainstream than anyone could have imagined. In 2007, Twitter saw an average of 400 thousand tweets per quarter. Back in March 2012, that number exploded to 340 million tweets per day. Just last month, they hit 200 million active users per month. But the way tweeters use the service has come into question by many after Twitter updated its API last year.
As I’m sure you’re all aware – you are reading an iOS-focused site, after all – apps are the bee’s knees nowadays. Traditional data-seeking methods have not been completely abandoned, but smartphone owners (and who doesn’t own one at this point?) are always on the lookout for new apps. If we enjoy a particular site, company, or business, we check to see if they have an app.
Twitter is no exception. Despite their claims that most people use official apps (twitter.com and official Twitter apps) to use the service, a strong number of users are tweeting from third-party clients. Some independent studies have put the percentage at over 40.
That’s why so many chided Twitter after they announced their new API, which aims to significantly reduce the number of users who access Twitter via third-party apps, like Tweetbot.
I won’t bother detailing their explanation since I don’t believe in engaging in company PR without getting paid for it. The important part for you, me, and everyone else is that each company now has a limited number of apps they can give away or sell. The cap is set at a mere 100 thousand apps or, if the company was already over that number when the API was released, they are allowed to double their number. But that’s it.
Someone else wants to try the micro-blogging service? They better go to twitter.com, which is what Twitter wants. And to be fair, that’s completely within their right to do so. This is their service and they are managing it in a way to maximize their profits. That’s how most businesses operate.
But I have a big problem with a company biting the hand that feeds it. I’m not trying to claim that without third-party apps, Twitter wouldn’t be as successful as it is now. I also wouldn’t say the opposite since neither point can be proven. But it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to understand that the more outlets your service has to attract members, the better.
Not to mention the ethics involved here. There are far more unusable Twitter apps than there are great ones. But the great ones are just that – great. Terrific, even. They transform a busy, sometimes disorienting service into one that’s clean, simple, and fun. They’ve built up a certain rapport with their customers that they risk losing because of Twitter… and only Twitter.
Tweetbot for the Mac is a perfect example. They famously yanked their beta once the new rules were announced and, side note, who knows how many tokens they lost to users who tried the app for two minutes and then deleted it? That’s one of the worst parts of the new API – anyone who downloads the app takes a spot. Just deleting the app or never using it doesn’t free that spot up for someone else. You have to go to Twitter’s website and revoke the app’s access. So even though Tweetbot released the beta before the rules were announced, they had to retroactively abide by them and lose those paying customers.
But I digress.
After Twitter bought out Tweetie, iOS users were left without a go-to third-party Twitter app. That is, until Tweetbot came along. Everyone instantly fell in love and clamored for an iPad version… and they got it. Both apps were given a very reasonable, very competitive $2.99 price tag. Everyone assumed the upcoming OS X version would be reasonably priced as well.
But then came the big, bad Twitter machine to crush those dreams. No one is sure how many Tweetbot for Mac users there were at the time the new rules were announced, but let’s assume it was under 100K – let’s go with 20 thousand, only for argument’s. Before the changes, Tweetbot reasonably assumed they had no cap on their profits. All of a sudden, they find out they can only sell 80 thousand apps, so they have to adjust the price accordingly. The $2.99 iOS app costs $19.99 for the Mac.
And, again, this is all Twitter’s fault.
For what it’s worth, I think it’s worth every penny. But that’s coming from a heavy Twitter user. More casual users, who would pay $5 or $10, will most likely scoff at the price. And that’s fair.
But if you love Twitter and love Tweetbot on the iOS, don’t even hesitate on dropping some coin to help support Tapbots. Because of Twitter, they could sure use it.