Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Twitter's "Quickbar Uprising" Is Nothing: Wait Till The Ads Really Show Up

Some people hate Twitter’s new iPhone app, and Twitter is listening: It’s going to change the app slightly.

Which won’t appease the people who hate Twitter’s new iPhone app at all.

So if you’re an app update hater looking for a silver lining, think of it this way: This gives Twitter, and its users, a taste of what’s to come, when the service starts pushing ads in front of most users’ eyeballs.

The people who hate the new app–a small but vocal and visible group of users like Apple blogger John Gruber–are upset about the “Quick Bar” Twitter installed across the top of the app this week, which “shows trends and other important things”. And the Quick Bar isn’t going away.

Twitter says a revised version of the app will push the bar to the very top of the app’s display, instead of actually sitting on top of your Tweets in a translucent box.

But if Twitter really wanted to appease its critics, it would give them the ability to turn the Quick Bar off. And it’s not going to do that, says CEO Dick Costolo.

It’s easy to see why Twitter wants to keep the Quick Bar on the app. It thinks it can turn that sliver of phone screen real estate into ad revenue.

Twitter has already used the bar to display a “Promoted Trend”, one of the two ad formats that are working for the company right now. And while “#tigerblood“, one of the trends that’s appearing on top of the app right now isn’t an ad, clicking on it sends you to a search results page that does display an ad. The top result is a “Promoted Tweet” for a, um, Charlie Sheen poster.

I’ve never heard anyone complain–certainly not to this degree–about Twitter’s other ad implementations so far*, and there’s a reason for that. Promoted Trends and Promoted Users, the company’s two main ad formats, are tucked away unobtrusively on a corner of users’s homepages.

Which means in order to see them you a) have to use the site, which you don’t have to do to use Twitter and b) have to look for them once you’re there.

And Promoted Tweets, the company’s first ad format, are very, very hard to find. Because a) they only show up in search results for certain terms and b) there just aren’t many of them out there. Because Twitter has an inventory problem.

But that’s going to change with Quick Bar. And it will change even more this spring, when Twitter starts running Promoted Tweets in users’ main timelines on

That’s going to help Twitter solve its inventory problem, since it won’t have wait for users to make certain searches in order to show them ads. But it’s certainly going to freak out a subset of users who’ve grown used to Twitter as an ad-free space.**

Bear in mind that the last update only went live on Thursday, which means the only people grousing about the Quick Bar now are Twitter’s savviest users — the ones who update iPhone apps immediately. My hunch is that vast majority of iPhone app users have yet to see it at all. But the in-stream ads will affect a much larger swath of Twitter’s users.***

On the whole, those users will be much easier to please, or harder to anger****, than the Twitterati grousing over the last couple days.

But there are going to be an awful lot of them. Should be interesting.


*For the record, Costolo, via Twitter, says the Quick Bar isn’t simply an ad delivery feature but an “alerting mechanism“. Which also delivers ads.

**I don’t have a problem with the ad concept. I like free, ad-supported Web services.

*** I haven’t heard Twitter say they’re going to show the instream ads on its iPhone app, but if they did they’d be that much more intrusive, given the small screen size. I asked Costolo to clarify, but he declined to comment, for now.

**** By the way, don’t click on those “see who’s viewing your profile” links. They’re bogus.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald