Twitter Round 2.0: Ready?

A few months back, the early-adopters crowd was still wondering if Twitter would break-through as a mainstream communications gadget. Today, any high-profile celebrity has a Twitter stream, Twitter generates revenue, and they are now valued at about $250 million. So you know what’s next? The purge!

Yep, it is now time to fine-tune this engine, take away the screws and bolts that enabled those 140 characters to achieve those first miles. Get rid of those online marketers that were so enthusiasts about this incredible new way to generate more traffic and interactions.

It happened to Facebook, it happened to Digg, it happened to Youtube, now it’s Twitter’s turn. It is a rule in the tech industry: Crossing the chasm implies breaking up with one’s core community.

The most obvious hint is the new hire, Doug Bouwman, who left Google a few weeks ago and wrote a blog post about it that made its way to Techmeme. His first mission will be to integrate the new @mention feature that replaces the old @replies.

If I had to guess what Doug Bouwman will have to work on, I would say:

  • integrate the subscribed search results directly into users’ stream (like Thwirl has been doing)
  • integrate suggested items
  • integrate news items
  • a filter page, to enable users to follow tens of thousands of people, but only on specific topics

So why a purge? Well, with all this new make-up on, Twitter has to gain more control over the info that transits through its servers, as well as the info that is displayed on users’ profiles: Will Twitter scripts have to be ousted? Will RSS subscriptions to feeds still be available instead of official subscriptions? If Twitter starts to sell deeper analytics to paying users, they need to make sure that their data is under control.

Consequently, we can expect the Twitter app market to start shrinking down to only a few that offer remote services that Twitter will not be offering as built-in features. Out of those remaining apps, the ones that are already funded or making money are the ones that will be able to survive by paying for ad placement on the mothership’s Website.

I am not saying that Twitter will close down its API. That would not make sense. But check out Tweetlater for example. It is a solid service, with a revenue model, all inside a well-rounded product. It is difficult today to start from scratch on the Twitter platform and compete against those established players. An economy has shaped around Twitter, it is now time for round 2.0.