Stephen Foley: Twitter finally flicks the ticks off its business


US Outlook: Twitter is not a planet, so I'm having trouble with the idea of a Twitter "ecosystem", which the world of tech start-ups has been debating this week.

I'm in a minority of Twitter users in that I access the microblogging site via its own dysfunctional (and sometimes non-functional) website. Earlier adopters typically use the apps that have sprung up to help organise and improve the slurry of material that flows through Twitter, 140 characters at a time.

It is these other applications, and scores of related businesses using material from or for Twitter, that make up the so-called ecosystem, and many are in uproar about Twitter's decision to turn itself into a real business. One of Twitter's venture capital backers caused great offence by telling these app developers they were only "filling holes" that Twitter itself would fill when it got the money. With the company's purchase of the best app for accessing Twitter on the iPhone, and its decision to start selling adverts that will linger in the Twitter feed, we have learnt this week what Mr Wilson was talking about. Twitter is suddenly in competition with most of the firms in its ecosystem.

What did these app developers expect? Twitter doesn't just have the opportunity to become a real business, it has the obligation to do so. Increasing staff and server costs must be paid for, or it will disappear. The hole-filling app developers helped Twitter to grow its user numbers, but they do not help it grow its revenues. Quite the opposite, as some siphon advertising money away.

Twitter is not a planet with an ecosystem. How about a different metaphor? Twitter is a racehorse, and it is finally flicking the ticks off.

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