Twitter reaches its fifth birthday today. It has come a long way since co-founder Jack Dorsey posted the first tweet on March 21, 2006. Now Twitter nearly 200 million users who now post more than a billion tweets every week. But where do developers fit into its future now that it needs to make a profit?
Yesterday Jack Dorsey recalled a milestone using nearly the maximum of 140 characters allowed in a Twitter message:
"5 yrs ago today, the eve of launching twttr to the company. Moving from @Biz, @florian & me, to all of our peers using it. Nervous. #twttr"
Dorsey's first tweet had been just two words,
Like most tweets it was short, lacking punctuation and cryptic. However it was effective and this has to be the hallmark of Twitter as a means of communication. It is remarkable just how much can be conveyed in just 140 characters and over the past 5 years some very significant decisions, actions and events have been motivated or recorded in Tweets.
Twitter's importance in communication was made plain during the moments after Japan's earthquake and tsunami this month.
Twitter set a record of 6,939 tweets per second immediately after the 9.0-magnitude quake struck Japan on March 11, and 177 million tweets went out as the day wore on.
It took three years, two months and a day for Twitter to get to one billion tweets. Today it has more than 400 people working for it and more than 200 million members. More than a billion tweets sent every week; it averages 140 million tweets a day .
Twitter is a privately-held company, so its finances are not made public. Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that suitors were valuing it at $8 to $10 billion. However at the moment Twitter doesn't have an obvious revenue model and this is something that it seems to be gearing up to.
We reported last week on the introduction of new terms and conditions for developers working with he Twitter API aimed to limit the spread of non-official apps. In unveiling these changes it was claimed that according to its own data "90% of active Twitters users use official Twitter apps on a monthly basis." (Twitter defines “official” as applications it owns and operates for the Mac, iPad, Android and Windows Phone.)
The sysmos blog paints a rather different picture however which shows why Twitter might feel threatened by the use of non-official Twitter clients. It looked at the use of different Twitter clients using a sample of Tweets and discovered that 42% were made by non-official apps:
(click chart to enlarge)
This analysis is of 25 million tweets posted on March 11, the day Twitter unveiled its new API policy and by coincidence the day of its record 177million Tweets and so not a typical day to take this sample. Even so it is still likely to be indicative of the prevalence of non-official apps.
(click chart to enlarge)
Among the non-official group, the most popular apps were TweetDeck, UberSocial and Echofone, all of which are owned by UberMedia. sysmos did note, however, that while Tweetdeck accounted for 5.5% of total tweets in this sample this was in comparison with 19.9% in a similar survey conducted in June 2009 which concluded that more than half Twitter users (55%) were using non-official Twitter clients.
It is clear that if Twitter is to make the sort of profits that its traffic levels suggest it should be making it has to take more control. But after encouraging developers to extend its reach it now seems hard that it should find it necessary to take away what it once gave freely.