How Twitter + Apple Will Help Both Twitter and iOS Apps Grow (Q&A)
Twitter, which has taken a lot of flack from outside developers as it has slowly built out products that compete with theirs, will soon take on a whole new developer ecosystem: Apple’s. Through a partnership announced last week, iOS 5 developers will be able to add one-click Twitter integration to make their apps more social.
I wrote a bit already about what the deal could mean for Twitter’s identity, but to hear about what it could mean for Twitter’s relationships with developers I went to the source: Twitter Director of Platform Ryan Sarver.
Sarver elaborated on the distribution Twitter expects to receive from Apple, but he especially emphasized that Twitter hopes to provide distribution for developers of iOS apps. Here’s how he put it:
We think there’s a really huge opportunity to be the second biggest driver of downloads next to the App Store just because that social layer adds a whole new discovery channel.
Here’s a lightly edited transcript of our conversation:
AllThingsD: Given that developers can today build Twitter integrations for their users to sign in and share content, is the new iOS integration just a cleaner way to add functions that were already available?
Ryan Sarver: To me, this is one of the most exciting things. There’s a subset of Apple developers that have always thought of themselves as Twitter developers, like Twitter clients or Instagram or Foursquare. But now literally every iOS developer can be a Twitter developer. We think every app is going to benefit from instant personalization from this social layer, from gaming to utilities to enterprise apps.
How do you think of Twitter as an identity service?
I think Twitter has this great aspect of public identity: people are really willing to share and to promote their handle because it represents their public self. And the public self doesn’t have to be the same one that they share everywhere else; you can have this faceted identity. That’s different from other people [like Facebook, clearly!] who share the same full name, same avatar everywhere else. As Apple bakes this into the OS layer, it’s going to be hugely important for every app out there.
Will the Twitter app be pre-installed on iOS like YouTube or will people have to download your app themselves?
I’m not sure.
I imagine you hope that more people will use Twitter because they hear about it from Apple.
Exactly, but I think there are going to be a lot more interesting uses and ways that Twitter can be leveraged so it doesn’t have to just be about that core Twitter experience of reading timelines. A lot of it could be sharing moments and tweeting out things as they’re happening from different services.
But that publishing experience is only useful after you have an account.
Yes, you need an account.
I have to think that if Apple features Twitter prominently in one of its commercials it could lead to a bump in new user registrations.
They’re really good marketers for sure. And the other side of that is, our job as a platform provider is to create opportunities for developers and that really helps in the form of growing the user base. And I think the announcement with Apple is going to lead to tremendous growth of the user base on Twitter which benefits the entire ecosystem.
Do you think iOS users and Twitter users are similar people?
I don’t know offhand. If you look in San Francisco there’s probably 100 percent overlap but obviously that’s not representative of the rest of the world.
Have you decided when you’ll extend your new native photo hosting to mobile apps? I have to imagine much of the photo-sharing on Twitter comes from people taking pictures on their mobile phones rather than just the Web.
Yeah, the whole Tweet Sheet and photo upload service goes through our new photo API.
So now you’re building great developer tools for mobile, specifically one mobile platform. Do you expect to extend that to the rest of your service and ecosystem?
Mobile is hugely, hugely important to Twitter now and especially in the future. It’s definitely part of our DNA — when Jack [Dorsey] started thinking of the idea, mobile is where it started. We want to reduce friction on all platforms but especially mobile.
Do you anticipate that you will want to add more platform features, along the lines of what Facebook has historically offered to developers, like viral channels and notifications and emails?
We really hope to drive tons and tons of app downloads. We think that’s really important. Apps may help in building Twitter but we want to drive their user acquisition as well. We think there’s a really huge opportunity to be the second biggest driver of downloads next to the App Store just because that social layer adds a whole new discovery channel. We think it’s going to increase this virtuous cycle between sharing great content, seeing where it was created, and than having users go download that app.