Twitter has launched a global campaign in a bid to get more startups and developers familiar with its software development platform, which can be used to build and support mobile apps.
The San Francisco-headquartered company, which boasts 284 million active monthly users, held an event in its home city last October where it launched the Fabric platform – a suite of tools that it hopes mobile developers will adopt to build features into their apps that will subsequently bring more users to Twitter and generate new revenues for the company.
This week, Twitter held its first mobile developer conference outside the US in London as it embarks on a global tour. Next week, the army of Twitter executives will take the tour, known as Flock, to Berlin, before heading on to Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Bangalore and Sao Paulo later in the year.
“We’ve set out on a journey to try and talk to the developer community and connect," Twitter UK MD Bruce Daisley told the London audience consisting of over 400 developers, entrepreneurs, designers and UX professionals. "We’re on an epic road trip. We started on a bus in LA and we travelled across the whole of the US before coming here.”
“Three million developers are working to reach a connected audience now of three billion connected individuals,” said Daisley. “The opportunity is really magnificent."
One of the main reasons Twitter is keen to attract app developers to Fabric is because there are an increasing number of mobile users that expect a native in-app experience, meaning they don’t want to switch from say the Citymapper app to the Twitter app to get the latest travel information.
"As the online world moves away from one that was desktop-based towards one that is native mobile apps, all of the business models that we have seen over the last 20 years have been shaken up," added Daisley. "Monetisation, referral traffic, subscription, identity are all being reset and new opportunities are creating themselves.”
Fabric is divided into three different modules. They include the Crashlytics Kit, the Twitter Kit and the MoPub Kit. Many components of the platform have been used internally at Twitter, in the same way that Facebook has been using Facebook at Work internally.
Ahead of the Flock event at Vinopolis, an events space near London Bridge, Bear Douglas, a Twitter developer advocate based in San Francisco, told Techworld that businesses stand to gain "a lot" by using Fabric.
The Crashlytics Kit allows developers to distribute their app for testing and get crash reports which show them where the bug is that is causing their app to crash.
“It provides crash reporting, which is important to pretty much every app,” Douglas said at the Twitter UK offices near Piccadilly Circus the day before Flock.
Rytis Vitkauskas, cofounder and CEO of event booking app YPlan, said: “Our app has a success rate of nearly 100 percent, and that’s largely due to Twitter’s Crashlytics tool. It helps us identify potential issues quickly so we can implement a safeguard before the situation gets out of hand."
As part of Crashlytics there is another product called Answers, which provides app developers with lightweight analytics.
Douglas explained: “Instead of giving people a massive dump of data that they have to process themselves, or having them set up complicated funnel conversion tracking, what they can do is add in a single line of code and we give them what we know are the most important top level metrics. For example, daily active users, monthly active users, retention, session length and number of crashes.”
The Twitter Kit allows developers to integrate Tweets and Twitter feeds into their apps.
Citymapper became one of the first UK companies to harness this feature, announcing yesterday that it is now displaying Tweets from Transport for London’s official Twitter account (@TfLTravel Alerts) within the Citymapper app, as well as Tweets from several other official transport agencies worldwide.
“We used Twitter Kit inside of Fabric to allow us to show the full content of the Tweets including icons and photos, embedded images,” said Hughes.
“Fabric makes it really easy to incorporate Tweets,” he said. “There’s even the ability to style the appearance a little bit to match what we were going for in the app. Twitter has been very helpful in making sure we got things up and running.”
Citymapper has also been using Crashlytics since it was rolled out as a beta product nearly two and a half years ago.
Another London startup underpinning its app with the Twitter Kit is Twizoo, which helps people find the best places to eat and drink within a specified area based on what people are saying on Twitter.
MoPub is a mobile advertising exchange that Twitter bought in 2013 for a reported $350 million (£228 million). The Kit, which supports all mobile ad formats, aims to help developers monetise their apps quickly and efficiently.
Mobile app MyFitnessPal and mobile gaming company Zynga are already using MoPub to drive their advertising revenues.
Twitter was unable to specify how many developers are using Fabric or each of the software development kits that fall underneath it.
However, the company has revealed that it is processing a million analytics events a second from developers using Answers, or two trillion a month.
“These are proxy measures that can be used to understand the scope of the platform,” said Douglas. “Fabric is global. It’s pretty much used by people in every country around the world.”
But can Twitter's developer platform compete with those offered by other Silicon Valley giants?
"In terms of how the company’s developer strategy compares to Google, Facebook and the like, Twitter have been acquisitive over the last few years about developing a comprehensive set of tools and kits that companies like YPlan need," said Vitkauskas. "They've worked hard to improve their offer and their ecosystem is now top class.”
Why Flock to London?
Twitter could have chosen to host its first non-US developer conference anywhere in the world but it chose London for several reasons.
“London has a really hot startup scene and we also have an office here that can support us so the conversations can continue when we leave," said Douglas.
“We don’t want to come and do a show and then abandon everyone. We’re trying to start these conversations. We have people in our office here who are working both on the business development side and the developer relations side to help people out with their technical implementations.”
Approximately five of Twitter’s 150 London employees will be available to help companies and developers use Fabric.