Twitter itself is filling a hole (start here if you don’t know what this is all about), the status update craze hole it mostly created. We’re filing another hole, if you want to keep in touch with your friends or build your brand you have to share and constantly check all your comments, likes, mentions on all major social software, that’s my company Seesmic’s hole, our empty space, our opportunity. Any growing startup fills in “empty space” that you can call filling a hole and it’s absolutely normal. There is no bomb being dropped and no need to create sensational titles either but I guess it helps getting attention and there is obviously something important about Twitter launching its first “official” Twitter mobile client today, whatever “official means” it’s a step towards serious competition with its ecosystem. Interesting Twitter launches its own first mobile client a few days before its first platform ecosystem conference. What’s the message being sent to developers? I am actually not worried, I think no-one should depend only on one platform and that’s what we’re doing while keeping a close partnership with Twitter.
As Josh said, filling a hole is a great place to start not a great place to end, and that’s exactly what we’re doing, remember we started as a video company? That hole did not prove deep enough yet, enough to get buried in it if we had not moved as fast as we could to another one. It’s roughly one year that we shipped Seesmic Desktop and happily moved to the Twitter ecosystem with great growth, millions of downloads, 40% monthly growth on Seesmic web in march and a presence on desktop, web, blackberry, android and more to come soon (yes, I know, iPad and iPhone, when? answer: in the future.).
Twitter has been a great partner and helped us whenever we have needed help. Most of our growth is coming from Twitter and we are confident our partnership with our friends at Twitter will keep being strong, trustful and long term, no doubts about it. At the same time, we have been competing with Twitter itself since day one, with their own client twitter.com by either taking it to other platforms or helping our users managing their Twitter stream in a different way.
For example, we have created a contact management tool in Seesmic Web that lets you access a list of all your following and followers and then drag and drop any of them in Twitter lists (you can also drag and drop from anywhere in our web app). It is a unique way to make sure you are following people who you know and are following you that you would have missed otherwise, block people you don’t like, check their stats and order them in lists. Is it innovative? I think so. Is is filling a hole? Definitely. A few friends at Twitter told me “that’s how our own contact management should be” and I took it as a great compliment. Will Twitter have that on their own site in the future? For sure, and that is not a problem. The Twitter ecosystem is innovating everywhere Twitter sucks or has not innovated yet as Ryan Sarver said himself on stage at Mix. What’s important is to keep moving, get the growth you get by innovating, then move to the next innovation.
It would be very dangerous for anyone to be relying 100% on Twitter. As Fred Wilson reminded us, Facebook changed completely the apps notifications making it now much more difficult for an app to grow to millions of users the way Zynga did. A friend of mine a few years ago was relying entirely on Google for its traffic and got almost entirely unreferenced and his pagerank to 0 in one day because they did not like what he was doing. He learnt the hard way to never build a business relying entirely on one partner and one platform, and I remember it very well.
Twitter is not exclusive with us, they have thousands of applications in their ecosystem. They are doing a pretty good job at trying to treat everyone equally with the way they opened their mini firehose for example. I don’t expect them to be exclusive with us and we’re not exclusive with them either. As another friend at Twitter joked with me one day “you can see other girls”. And we are seeing other girls, we integrated Facebook very early, we acquired ping.fm that supports about 40 social networks and services and we are about to launch the most exciting product we have ever launched, Seesmic Platform. It’s a platform on a platform. We’re getting multiple requests a day “can I be integrated in Seesmic Desktop” and it’s painful to say “I am sorry but our team is very loaded we won’t be able to before months”. It would take us hundreds of developers to integrate all the services –around Twitter or other social networks- who want to be integrated. Almost a year ago, we have decided to stop the feature race and solve that frustration of ours and developers interested in what we do, by creating our own platform. Announced a few weeks ago we received more than 500 requests for SDKs from services and social networks around the World and will send them very shortly. If it goes as we are planning, Seesmic Desktop will support many more services and social networks we could ever integrate ourselves. We made it so open that Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are plugins themselves and if you do not like the way we implemented them, you can code your own Twitter plugin and change it (for example, if we put ads in them, you can remove them, yes, even that).
Are we competing with Twitter? Yes and no. Look at the new RIM Blackberry client. Twitter posted about it on their blog (while they never or rarely post about any app on the ecosystem on their blog, they promote them with their definitions though, and we’ve been happy to be one of them) and they call it the “official Twitter client on Blackberry”. We have launched a few months ago Seesmic for Blackberry so what does it mean that this is the “official” Blackberry client? That we were filling a hole that got just filled in by Twitter? Wait, there is worse, @kevinthau at Twitter says “Working closely with RIM to deliver the official Twitter app has been a great experience and we are looking forward to bringing more and more Twitter innovation to BlackBerry”. That means not only do they call it official, they also say they are helping RIM actively and will bring more and more innovation to Blackberry. I have to admit I
was not expecting Twitter to step so fast in the mobile client race themselves competing so fast with its ecosystem. I think this is clearly the very first Twitter own mobile client and we can expect to see Twitter officially in other mobile platforms such as iPhone, Android, Nokia or Windows Phone. It would be a real problem for us if we did not expect it (I have always lived with the idea they would come with theirs) and were relying only on Twitter (with ping.fm as I said we support 40+ networks and services), so I don’t see this as a problem for us.
Twitter will always be about Twitter while we will always be about helping you build your brand and your community anywhere. Oh and by the way, we’re also competing with RIM on the Blackberry client too, a platform we are also investing on, which makes it even more interesting.
What I would really hate would be that Twitter would keep internal APIs for internal clients without giving the same opportunity to the ecosystem and at the same moment they are available for their internal team. I don’t mind competing with their clients as long as we are competing with the same tools. I have not seen any sign of that, in fact the contrary as we got for example the location API early and integrated it months before twitter.com on Seesmic Web. I actually think it will also happen, Twitter will likely keep some API for themselves as it’s already the case, and I am expecting it, I am just hoping it won’t happen too much. There are safety belts everywhere anyway, there is competition in social networking and competition will grow if Twitter does not treat its ecosystem as well as they have done in the past. Again, I am not expecting this nor do I see any signs of that, all the contrary, and I have enjoyed having frequent open conversations about this with my friends at Twitter.
Are we filling holes? Yes we are, all of us, including Twitter and that is absolutely normal. As long as we keep moving and innovating and both partners treat each other in a fair way, I think we will all be safe, the hole is big enough and there are many other holes.
update: Twitter acquired Tweetie. Now we’re competing with Twitter on Blackberry, Web, iPhone and also Mac native client. Android is obviously next. It’s definitely going to be an interesting conference next week.