What’s on Deck for Twitter’s Platform: App Promotion and Another Dev Conference

UPDATED Three months after Twitter’s first developer conference, Twitter’s head of platform Ryan Sarver thinks the company’s relationship with its ecosystem is back on track. At the time, the Chirp event had the effect of focusing developer criticism and anger, especially over Twitter’s moves to compete with its ecosystem by buying the iPhone client Tweetie, but Sarver said he was happy with the “pivotal” event for the opportunity to establish a precedent for being open with developers.

Twitter head of platform Ryan Sarver

Twitter has since rolled out some of the major platform features it debuted at Chirp, but not all. A pre-announced “Places” feature turned out to be less of a “Foursquare killer” and more of a way of focusing activity around a certain geographical area. The highly anticipated capability to add annotations to tweets is due in the second quarter. A new infrastructure for what’s called “user streams” is behind schedule, but promises to make tweets and other actions get pushed out in real-time (more on that in another post).

Om and I walked over to Twitter headquarters yesterday to meet with Sarver and other members of the product and platform teams. Since the last time I visited, Twitter has taken over another floor of its huge, bunker-like building in the Soma district of San Francisco. Now it has a yoga studio (apparently well-used) and a game and entertainment room (apparently not so much), as well as many more desks and conference rooms. It’s a time of insane growth; more than half the staff of the company has joined in the last six months.

Sarver said in addition to the announced feature additions, the next big thing he wants to offer developers is solid opportunities to succeed as businesses. That will consist of a couple to-do items:

  • Better systems for promoting apps and enabling user discovery of apps.
  • “Putting money through the ecosystem” by ramping up Twitter’s rollout of its advertising model, syndicating promoted tweets.

Sarver also said he expects to hold the next Twitter developer event in late August or early September. After Chirp, he had hoped to set an agenda of quarterly events, but other things — like the massive Twitter usage associated with the World Cup — have gotten in the way. And besides, as everyone at Twitter seems to admit with a pained smile, the best help Twitter can offer to its developers right now is a scalable and reliable service that doesn’t take their apps down with it. That, of course, has been a problem lately.

Despite Sarver’s happy version of events, it’s true that some investors and entrepreneurs are nervous about the uncertainties associated with building on Twitter. VP product Jason Goldman tried to explain Twitter’s point of view: “It’s not altruistic,” he said. “We depend on the ecosystem for our success.” Goldman said the Twitter management has committed to openness in planning, rules, and access to data for both developers and users.

Meanwhile behind the scenes, the company has made efforts to include select developers in its product testing, and allowed others to pay for better access to its data. Sarver said 30 to 40 Update: a Twitter spokesperson said the number is actually 15 to 20 companies now have access to the Twitter Firehose — the premium metered product of a real-time stream of all public Tweets. That includes big guys like Microsoft (s MSFT), Yahoo (s YHOO) and Google (s GOOG) and “two guys in Russia building relevance and discovery tools.” While the Firehose was first doled out in the name of real-time search, Sarver said today 10 to 12 of the companies using it are in search, and the others do a variety of things — for instance, Jive uses the Firehose for social business software.

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