Twitter introduces Fabric, its first platform for mobile app developers

Twitter’s play to win mobile developers’ hearts with a suite of products, dubbed Fabrice, is live. CEO Dick Costolo announced the news Wednesday at Twitter Flight, the company’s first ever developer conference.

Fabric is a pivot for the company, something almost entirely unrelated to the Twitter application itself. It has three parts: Twitter Kit, MoPub, and Crashlytics. The tools are meant to woo mobile app developers into the Twitter fold, with easy ways to manage app logins, make money off ads, and test their apps. It’s going to be an uphill battle for the company to fight, since Twitter betrayed many developers back in 2012 when it started cracking down on third party API use.

Twitter Kit is the real carrot in the Fabric arsenal. Through a feature called Digits, Twitter is essentially allowing developers to offer phone number login to their mobile app users, instead of using a social service or email to log in. This is a difficult technical problem to solve — you must have agreements with wireless carriers around the world — which is why most mobile app developers can’t do it on their own. Twitter is facilitating the process for them and could potentially attract developers over to Fabric as a result; Facebook and Google don’t have a comparable offering. Digits is launching on mobile and web, for free, in 268 countries and 28 languages.

MoPub, as most know at this point, is the ad exchange that Twitter acquired soon before going public. It will be wrapped into the Fabric fold as an option for developers to use to make money off ads. MoPub is one step above Facebook’s Audience Network; it’s a network of networks, so to speak. It’s an easy way for developers to manage their ad inventory, and determine which ad networks will pay them the most.

“Thousands of advertisers will bid in real time on your inventory,” Twitter’s Director of Mobile Platform Jeff Seibert said. This is the real money maker for Twitter in the Fabric suite, since they’ll be able to take a cut of the revenue from ads served.

twitter fabric dick costolo

Dick Costolo announcing Fabric on October 22nd, 2014 (credit: Twitter Flickr)

Crashlytics is the third part of Fabric, the app analytics tool for developers. Through the Crashlytics dashboard developers will be able to do crash reporting in the app, run app analytics, and gather data. Seibert announced a handful of Crashlytics products to address different problems. The Answers product visualizes an app’s performance, offering information like how many users are using your app right now, and notifying you when something has gone wrong.

“I’m sick and tired of analytics dashboards showing you tons of data but not actually showing you the answer,” Seibert said. Answers pinpoints which line of code in the app may be causing the crash.

Beta, another Crashlytics offering, allows developers to manage their app beta testers via a dashboard with lists of testers. For the beta testers, installing the Beta testing app takes a few taps, with no need to create an account or password. The UI adopts the colors of the developer’s app icon. “We’ve designed the product with your testers in mind,” Seibert says.

Twitter Fabric is the company’s first comprehensive attempt to make an impact on how mobile apps are developed. It’s following in the footsteps of Facebook, which has been wooing app developers for over a year now following its acquisition of mobile server company Parse and the launch of its mobile audience Ad Network. It launched the platform with an impressive roster of corporate partners, from McDonalds, to Spotify, to Target. McDonald’s Chief Digital Officer Atif Rafiq even swung by to give his verbal support on stage.

It’s a departure from Twitter’s core product, but one that could be key as the now public company attempts to grow and mature. Since the world is moving onto mobile, that’s where the real advertising dollars are. Without having key integrations into native apps, Twitter risks losing a major share of the mobile web advertising market to its competitors. This is its first step to stem that tide.

(This post was updated several times Wednesday morning as more information became available.)