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What Chirp and Twitter Mean For Developers

This week, Twitter made several announcements and held their first developer’s conference called Chirp.  Some of these announcements mean big things for the users while others hold greater significance for developers.While we are seeing the immediate grumblings from developers we don’t know what far reaching effects it will have yet.

The major piece of news that people are talking about from Chirp is the Library of Congress archiving all tweets from Twitter’s inception from March 2006 to present.  This is interesting from a historical perspective, so future generations will not only see what I have been doing and saying to others, but they can also see a picture of the day I had pancakes for lunch.

Twitter has also announced that it is releasing its own iPhone and Blackberry apps, with an official Droid app to follow.  Twitter also announced they would be releasing their own URL shortener, which people use services like bit.ly to fit links around the web within their 140 character limit. These announcements got a lot of developers up in arms because they felt Twitter was moving in on their territory. If you search for a Twitter app in the iTunes Store, you find Twitterific, Tweetie, Tweetdeck, Seesmic, etc. A lot of choices for the uninitiated. By purchasing Tweetie and making it the Official Twitter App for iPhone, it becomes simpler for the new user. The advanced users can still continue to use other apps that they enjoy, but it simplifies the experience for the “n00b” and helps bring the new users up to speed quicker.

Twitter has not shunned its developers, though.  They established dev.twitter.com and announced the expansion of API information.  What this means is that Twitter applications will have more information to work with about the users and their tweets.  The possibilities for what can be done with this new information is unknown at present, but I hope to see some cool apps developed soon.

There are developers who are secretly considering building a Twitter competitor because of the way they feel Twitter slighted them by announcing their own clients.  As a developer myself, I’ve always been weary of developing for other people’s platforms because you never know when they’ll decide they want to change the rules in ways that affect you.  Apple recently enacted what has been referred to as the “sexy apps ban.” While the iTunes store never allowed adult content, they recently cracked down on bikini apps and anything else they thought was considered too much of a sexual nature (unless it was a large corporation like Playboy or Sports Illustrated). By hanging your entire existence on someone else’s platform, you are at the mercy of their whims.  Your options are to diversify development across different platforms – including the web, where no one decides what is on your site but you – or live by someone else’s rules and accept their decisions.

I believe that the creation and purchase of apps for different platforms by Twitter is a good thing. People who want the more advanced clients will continue to do them, but developers will hopefully create more unique apps for the Twitter platform.  There is an entire directory of Twitter apps called oneforty. There are hundreds of apps on the site, and most of them interact with Twitter more than just tweeting from a game to say what you are doing.  I look forward to seeing what unique ideas people come up with now that the Twitter client will be less of a priority.

I love creative applications of technology. It doesn’t matter if it involves a platform like Twitter, iPhone or Facebook or an original concept on the web or desktop. I have an idea for Barcamp this weekend for a panel. I hope it generates some cool, unique idea that can one day be unleashed upon the world in the near future. If someone takes the obvious ideas, all that leaves is the fun, creative ideas that inspire myself and others.

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