Gigaom Research is advising the EC on what it could do to help app developers create and hold onto European jobs, and inject a little startup juice into the EU app economy.
GigaOM Research is teaming up with the Digital Enterprise Research Institute at NUI Galway and the European Commission to better understand the potential European opportunity, and to identify potential bottlenecks to growth that EC policies might address. We’re kicking off the project with a workshop in Brussels on June 14.
The new version of Twitter’s API that struck fear in the hearts of many developers – particularly those who would re-display tweets to general audiences – is live. Developers have till March to switch over. Twitter relaxed some of its restrictions on the maximum number of user tokens allowed. That’s only for competitive Twitter clients. And the frequency of API calls may also not be as strict as feared. Twitter’s staking out the ground it wants for itself pretty clearly. At least as long as it doesn’t change its strategy. This is all a developer can really ask for: clarity and consistency. Things are pretty clear; we’ll see if they stay consistent.
For iOS, anyway. So much for its HTML5 strategy? Not quite. Some elements – news feed features that will change the most frequently, for instance – still depend on HTML5. But Facebook has finally caved, and admitted that, for speed and user experience, it needed make a real app, re-architected and written in Objective-C. Ah well, Facebook didn’t have a mobile games/payments platform strategy in place yet anyway. (One excuse for non-native apps is to end-run Apple’s App Store rules and fees.) The new version is getting good early reviews. Meanwhile, Facebook says it gets more traffic to its mobile web site than from apps, but that’ll likely change instantly. Perhaps not instantly – its Android app, also updated today, is still old school.
Okay, that headline is too much. Twitter does need to take better care of its apps ecosystem. At the very least, it should be much more consistent and transparent about its API usage policies, according to 79 percent of the tech audience we surveyed. I’m a little less worried that Twitter has done itself serious damage than a lot of the vocal digerati. After all, the company is less dependent on third-party apps for generating usage than other platforms for, for example, gaming. The companies it needs to coddle are the ones doing analytics, marketing services, and data packaging. And media companies. Take a look at our Flash Analysis, that also examines Twitter’s overall prospects, potential revenue opportunities, and role in the industry, and tell us what you think.
I thought the return of Jack Dorsey was supposed to prevent random Twitter policy changes. But now LinkedIn can no longer act as a filtered feed for business contacts’ tweets. Twitter seems overly protective of its role as the mass-market client of choice. And what other developers are at risk? HootSuite is probably safe, as it’s rapidly evolving into the kind of professional and marketing-oriented app Twitter endorses. And Twitter hasn’t made any moves to prevent Facebook from pulling in tweets. If Twitter really wants to remain a news utility, it needs to clearly state its terms. This suggestion from Nova Spivak makes some sense: Twitter could write into its ads into its API usage TOS. The mechanics of implementation – without stripping ad targeting out – would be complex. But Twitter needs to have this kind of a discussion with developers.
Facebook officially launched its App Center for the web and mobile app discovery and promotion. It is distinctly not an app store – the mobile version funnels users to Apple’s and Google’s. Facebook crowed about how much traffic it drives to Apple, and how many high-grossing Apple apps integrate with Facebook. Is that bravado or peace-making? Regardless, while Facebook may be able to get an affiliate fee out of apps purchased at Apple or Google, this move is clearly not the end-run aimed at using Facebook Credits without paying Apple’s 30 percent cut. I still think Facebook is missing out on an obvious revenue opportunity: letting app developers pay for promotion along the lines of organic versus paid search. It’s not payola if the process is transparent to users and developers, and if Facebook were effective at presenting truly relevant results the way Google polices paid search relevance.
In January, I wrote that Facebook’s app ecosystem lacked a marketplace, and that it should copy features from a handful of companies and add a paid-search like mechanism for promotion. Well, Facebook announced the App Center with several of those features – no paid listings – and announced a beta probram to support paid apps. As CNET points out, it’s more of a showcase than a store. It doesn’t end-run Apple’s store, but rather points to mobile apps there. Promotions are driven by user ratings, and there’s no sign of curation or merchandising by Facebook humans. It’s not clear how or whether viral promotion off the marketplace will change. I don’t see any personalization angle yet. While this is a big step in the right direction to support its developers, Facebook has a long way to go.
A long piece in the Wall Street Journal on Google+ is pretty damning. The case against: it’s a “ghost town,” with 90 million users who don’t spend much time there, it isn’t differentiated from Facebook enough, Zynga says it’s disappointing and marketers like Intel and media buying agency Universal McCann agree. Google’s Bradley Horowitz, VP of product management, says that Google+ is not just a destination, but a social integration strategy across Google products. That’s something I’ve been pointing out since day one, even though that integration has drawn fire. In fact, I’ve even said it’s not important for Google+ to succeed as a destination, based on Google’s strengths in search and email. But I’m beginning to change my tune. Google has the potential to bring along traffic and a ready revenue stream for developers, but not if it doesn’t connect its ad networks, and if those apps never get discovered or used. Facebook still lacks an effective apps marketplace, but Google has yet to exploit that.
Facebook’s big “f8” developer event dominated the news, but most coverage focused on individual announcements and missed the big picture. Its revamped platform coupled with new discovery techniques could have a big impact on content and media usage, and just might launch a lifestyle apps market on the same scale as social gaming.