Twitter’s Expanded Coder Kit Embraces Third-Party Services
For most people, the phrase “software development kit” is gibberish. The acronym SDK is even worse.
Nonetheless, when my former colleague Mat Honan revealed last fall that Twitter was offering a new SDK, he described it as the company’s effort to reach every person on earth. He called it “the foundation for Twitter to transform a business based purely on a single product—tweets!—into a diversified service aimed at every person and company that makes mobile apps.” That, he said, “would affect every person who uses mobile apps. In other words, everyone.” And, well, he wasn’t far off.
An SDK is just a way of building software. It includes code that can help run an app and online services the app can plug into. In offering such a kit, Twitter aims to play a role in the creation of the world’s software, and on some level, it’s working. According to Twitter general manager Rich Paret, more than 100,000 coders are using the company’s developer tools, and those tools have now reached every official Google Android phone on the planet. “We basically see every Android device that Google sees,” says Paret, who leads the company’s developer program. Reaching every Android phone doesn’t mean Twitter is reaching everyone. But it’s making some progress.
Sure, it seems a stretch to say Twitter’s developer tools are on every Android phone. But these tools are used by some popular apps—including, presumably, Twitter itself—and they’re rather diverse, so the potential audience is large. These tools include ways of showing tweets within an app (Twitter Kit), placing advertisements (MoPub), identifying what makes an app crash (Crashlytics), and more. Crashlytics, in particular, is a widely used service.
But Twitter isn’t stopping there. Today, at its second annual developer conference in San Francisco, the company announced that Twitter Fabric—its suite of developer tools—will also offer various third-party services that coders can use in building their apps. This includes tools from Amazon, which provides online virtual machines for running an app; from Stripe, which helps apps receive payments; and from Optimizely, which provides A/B testing. Optimizely’s Suneet Shah says it’s entirely possible that Twitter Fabric now reaches all Android phones, and that’s one reasons his company is dovetailing its service with Fabric.
For Twitter, such partnerships make its developer offerings more attractive. Coders can get more of what they need in one place. This makes coders more likely to use Twitter Fabric—and extends the company’s reach ever further. As Twitter and its newly crowned CEO Jack Dorsey try to win over the Wall Street naysayers, that reach is what the company needs. Or at least part of what it needs.
Over the years, Twitter has had a less than ideal relationship with outside developers—in some cases, providing outsiders with access to its services, before cutting them off and essentially burying their applications. Twitter, you see, wanted to keep its core data to itself and, in some cases, offer apps that others were already offering. But this morning, during his keynote at Twitter’s developer conference, Dorsey apologized.
“We want to come to you today to apologize for our confusion, we want to reset our relationship, and we want to make sure that we are learning, that we are listening, and that we are rebooting,” he said. “We want to make sure we have a great relationship with our developers—we have an open, honest, and transparent relationship—and that we’re fulfilling and serving everyone of your needs.”
Additional reporting by Julia Greenberg