The blogosphere is abuzz about Apple’s announcement that iOS 5 will come bundled with built-in Twitter support. I admit I scratched my head that Apple chose Twitter over Facebook. Twitter, having only about 30-40 million active users, vs. Facebook, with near 600 million active users, seemed like the least likely choice for a service Apple’s customers would use (which one would your mom use?). Some are blaming Facebook’s reluctance to sign to Apple’s Terms on Ping. Maybe that’s it, but I don’t think Twitter’s inclusion is the full story. I think Twitter is just the launch partner for something bigger, and after playing with it myself in a developer build, I’m beginning to think Apple’s about to release something even bigger for developers, of which Twitter is just the included example.
If you look at the Twitter integration in iOS 5, it’s all part of the Twitter app. In fact, it doesn’t even work until I authenticate Twitter in my settings under the actual Twitter app itself. Then, when I view photos and other media I just hit the “share” button and I see a new “Tweet” option at the bottom of all the other share options that used to be there. I’m pretty sure that “Tweet” button is just part of the Twitter app as well. The way it’s laid out though seems to be something that could allow other apps to also add their own sharing functions.
Here’s what I think is going on: Twitter was given access to a private API Apple has provided that gives them access to that screen, and allows them to provide the interface for what happens when people want to share that item. Twitter has been given various integration points within iOS, which they can make API calls and provide interfaces that users can rely on, and other apps can tie into. Apple did not build this. Twitter did, and they’re using unreleased APIs to do so.
So what happens when Apple makes this interface available to other developers? Then, it doesn’t matter if Twitter comes bundled with the phone (they still get the first mover advantage). Facebook can create their own experience that automatically integrates with that experience when you install the Facebook app. Instagram could immediately send photos to a filtering page that then shares it on Instagram. Other social networks and entrepreneurs could create their own experiences as well which tie into that.
I’m beginning to think that Apple is onto something much bigger here with the inclusion of Twitter in this launch. I predict we’ll see APIs for this released, either in this release, or a future version, which will allow other apps tie into this interface, and you won’t have to have a special deal with Apple to do it.
Mark my words (I was right so far on my iCloud prediction after all)…
(btw, this is my 1,000th post)