one of those teams was annointed the official selection of Twitter itself and its leader at least is now a millionaire.Before tonight there were probably 30 to 50 teams making a serious play to build the best mobile client for Twitter. Tonight
People are saying that the acquisition of Tweetie by Twitter is bad news for the ecosystem of 3rd party developers that made Twitter so much more useful for millions of people. In truth though, those odds were pretty good for all of them. Tonight's news demonstrates again that independent developers can code their way into cash, equity and a job at one of the hottest startups on the web. That bodes well for those of us who love to use the software built by all of them, too.
Tweetie developer Loren Brichter is just 4 years out of college. He graduated from Tufts in 2006 and got a job doing embedded graphics and iPhone development for Apple through July, 2007. That month, the iPhone 3G was released and that year Time Magazine named it the invention of the year. After more than a year of development Tweetie was launched in November, 2008. Less than 18 months later Brichter and Twitter announced tonight that Tweetie has been acquired and will become "Twitter for iPhone."
Between cash and equity, Brichter must be a millionaire on paper at least. Brichter's one employee is Ash Ponders, who is in Spain and isn't saying anything on Twitter tonight. These guys built a service that won the big contest. If there were (and this is generous) 50 viable mobile Twitter clients - do you really think any of them launched this kind of business expecting better odds than that?
There are a number of other companies that could have become the official mobile app for Twitter but at this stage of the game Tweetie was an obvious choice. It loads fast, is relatively feature rich, is attractively designed and has proven popular with users.
Tweetie offers an attractive and simple desktop Twitter client, but was most valued for its iPhone version. Its strongest competitors were Twitterific, Tweetdeck and Seesmic. Twitterific is beautiful and perhaps a viable ad-supported small business but is too complicated to be appreciated by all but power users. (It's great on the iPad though.) Seesmic is strong on the smaller Android platform and is extending beyond Twitter alone.
Tweetdeck is the most powerful 3rd party Twitter app but it has higher aspirations, is exploring development of sophisticated Artificial Intelligence, is more complex than mainstream users need and is most likely to be bought by an enterprise, media or financial services company - not Twitter itself.
Tweetie is the everyperson's Twitter app. Twitter is chronically confusing for mainstream users, something the company has been trying desperately to change. If you are looking for a simple, attractive Twitter app for casual use then Tweetie on the desktop works great. When you're on a mobile phone, that's really all you ever need. In his blog post tonight Loren Brichter mentioned "simplifying the Twitter experience." That's something Twitter needs and something he's very qualified to help do.
There is still a place for other, more complex, Twitter apps. Media companies around the world (including this one) are finding Tweetdeck invaluable in carefully parsing the stream of Tweets for high-value nuggets. Seesmic is believed to be working closely with Microsoft in order to bring social media stream reading to all kinds of different platforms.
But tonight one of the many Twitter apps hit it big. That's good news for app developers in general and for the users who would use their software. Go ahead and build a client for a major social network. Odds are it won't prove a viable business, but if you were risk averse then building a Twitter client startup is probably the last thing on earth you'd do anyway. The fairy tale came true for one of these companies. That's reason enough for many more developers to build many more innovative apps in the future.