Social networking service Twitter is getting into the business of making its own clients: the company has announced that it has acquired iPhone application Tweetie for an undisclosed amount, and that Tweetie developer Loren Brichter will be joining Twitter’s mobile team. Once the acquisition goes through, Tweetie will be renamed Twitter for iPhone and be given away for free in the iTunes App Store. Tweetie currently goes for $2.99 in the App Store.
Twitter also announced a Twitter application for RIM’s BlackBerry devices, initially calling the application “official” but quickly withdrawing that wording.
“Careful analysis of the Twitter user experience in the iTunes AppStore revealed massive room for improvement,” wrote Twitter’s Evan Williams on the company blog. “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 experience.”
Twitter’s move to launch Twitter-branded mobile clients is, on its face, an attempt to avoid confusion amongst new users trying to get their devices working with Twitter for the first time. And it’s hard to fault Twitter’s choice: Tweetie is one of the best-regarded Twitter clients for the iPhone—the app won a 2009 Apple Design Award.
However, Twitter’s move to “bless” an official Twitter for iPhone client has sent a negative ripple through the Twitter development community, whose Twitter-capable mobile applications—particularly for the iPhone—are now all implicitly labeled as second-class citizens. (The situation was worse for BlackBerry clients, since Twitter’s app was initially dubbed “official.”) The move is particularly jarring since a good deal of Twitter’s success comes from the sheer variety of third-party Twitter-savvy applications for a variety of mobile devices.