What is Twitter up to?

New Twitter UI?

Twitter has just made a number of pretty big announcements in the past two days. First, they announced a potential “huge” overhaul of their web UI. Then yesterday, they release Twitter for Blackberry AND they announced that they have acquired Atebits, the little company that makes Tweetie, a popular Mac and iPhone Twitter client and are going to turn it into Twitter for iPhone.

What does this all mean? I don’t see the business model here yet, but they are clearly working on something. Twitter for iPhone (aka Tweetie) is moving from a $2.99 app to become free, so they are not monetizing the app purchase so far. One thing that Tweetie for Mac and other clients have done is put ads in the stream in order to get a little bit of revenue that way. Is that something Twitter is hiding up their sleeve? We don’t know now, and until we do, I guess all we can do is be happy. (Or dismayed at the proliferation of mobile phone “apps” instead of standards-based mobile web sites). The attitude of one Twitter funder is expressed this way:

Much of the early work on the Twitter Platform has been filling holes in the Twitter product. It is the kind of work General Computer was doing in Cambridge in the early 80s. Some of the most popular third party services on Twitter are like that. Mobile clients come to mind. Photo sharing services come to mind. URL shorteners come to mind. Search comes to mind. Twitter really should have had all of that when it launched or it should have built those services right into the Twitter experience.

With the launch of Twitter for iPhone and Blackberry it seems that some of those services are getting built in as we speak. One thing that dismays me a little bit is that there are no rumours about Twitter Search being improved, or the indexing and archiving processes getting any better. Maybe this is the librarian in me rearing its ugly head (or the subject of another blog post), but we need an effective and non-maddening way to get to old tweets. I guess I’ll just hang my hat on that one, and go back to clicking that “more” button.

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