Twitter’s Making More Money Off of Mobile Than on the Desktop; What Does This Mean for Third-Party Twitter Apps?
Twitter is succeeding where others are failing: in the world of mobile advertising. Twitter now makes more money from mobile clients than they do their website, according to the Wall Street Journal. Ads have only recently been a signifcant part of mobile Twitter, but the reason for the increased success, according to unnamed Twitter executives? Users on mobile are more likely to interact with ads, which is how Twitter gets paid, through that user interaction.
In particular, this needs to be contrasted with Facebook’s failure to make money off of mobile. It was a mentioned issue in their IPO filing as to why they could potentially fail. Their mobile app doesn’t display the advertisements displayed on the web, where Facebook makes a lot of its money, though they have experimented with promoted stories at the top of users’ feeds, similar to how promoted tweets appear in users’ timelines and when searching on Twitter.
Now, these ads don’t yet appear in third-party clients like Tweetbot, and this may be intentional, as Twitter’s API rules state that third-party apps that choose to display ads will share in some of the revenue (heading IV, section 1). However, Twitter has laid down an ominous warning that they will start enforcing these Rules of the Road more stringently, as seen in the LinkedIn crackdown. This may require developers to implement key changes into their apps that they might not want to, such as viewing Twitter’s “expanded tweets” that launched recently. These are tweets that contain expanded image or video content from certain sources, that can be viewed with the tweet when it is expanded in the user’s timeline.
Twitter mentions that they want all clients that use their API to support these expanded tweets in the name of a consistent user experience, but also in order to support the partners who utilize the Twitter Cards technology. After all, these content providers that use the technology will want them to be seen by as many eyeballs as possible, even third-party clients.
Twitter has warned third-party app developers to stay out of their territory in the past. While third-party applications built on the Twitter API helped grow the platform on mobile, and eventually became the first official Twitter app, now they want to be in control of the way users experience their service. The problem is, of course, that it might not always be a positive experience. The version 4.0 of the iPhone/iPod touch Twitter app was so unpopular on launch that Tweetbot ran a $0.99 sale because so many people jumped ship; they wanted to entice more switchovers. In a similar way, Facebook’s current app is so unpopular that they are reportedly rebuilding their iOS app from the ground up.
These changes should worry anyone using the Twitter API in a substantial way, especially those who are interested in third-party clients. Twitter wants to control the user experience, especially if it will mean more eyeballs interacting with the ads that give them revenue. At best, it’s more work for developers to comply with the API. At worst, it’s a reason to potentially not work with Twitter if they will rigidly define how users can potentially interact with an app.