Shane BarnhillSaturday,6 April 2013

The Snap:

This week, Twitter announced important changes to its Twitter Cards feature, which provide a mechanism for web and app content publishers to “attach media experiences to Tweets that link to… content.” The most notable changes include direct app downloads and app-to-app linking, as Twitter notes on its Developers blog:

“One of the most important features in the new Cards is the ability to allow users to download your app (if the user doesn’t already have it installed), or deep-link into your own app (if the app is already installed on the user’s mobile device). The ability to enable app installs and deep-linking is globally available across all Twitter Card types.”

Launch partners for the Cards updates include Etsy, Jawbone, Rovio, Foursquare, Path and Flickr.

The Download:

Most analysts have hailed the move as a potential boon for app developers, in terms of driving app downloads and promoting in-app commerce. Twitter — like Facebook — is positioning itself for increased ad revenues as an app discovery platform. When visitors access app-based content via Cards on mobile devices, they’ll see calls to action to download the app if it’s not already installed on their mobile devices. App developers will pay a pretty penny for the rights to be featured in this way.

The commerce aspect is also a huge opportunity for Twitter. As Fred Wilson notes on AVC:

“It is particularly helpful for e-commerce apps where sending someone to a mobile web page where they are not logged in pales in comparison to sending them to a mobile app where they are logged in with their payment credentials stored and ready to be used in a transaction.”

Twitter, of course, will happily take a cut of the sales that result from click throughs via its platform. So yes, Twitter’s improved Cards are big deal as a new revenue opportunity for both Twitter and app developers.

But perhaps the most mind-boggling — and glossed over — part of Twitter’s announcement is the concept of “deep links” from Twitter into mobile apps. As  Twitter moves to link directly into apps, it surpasses the web in favor of app-to-app connections. Sure, the Internet still powers these connections, but web pages, including mobile ones — where Google reigns supreme, and garners huge revenue streams — are cut out of the workflow of content consumption and app downloads. No more reliance on blue hyperlinks from web pages (you know, the ones that serve up Google’s ads).

This could mean that more opportunities to serve up ads will soon reside with both Twitter and independent app makers, instead of with Google. But even if in-app ads aren’t part of Twitter’s master plan, it’s clear that bypassing the Google-dominated web in favor of A Web Of Apps is. And that’s a big deal. A really BFD.

But would an app-to-app web gain traction? In a way, it already has. According to Flurry:

“Today, the U.S. consumer spends an average of 2 hours and 38 minutes per day on smartphones and tablets. 80% of that time (2 hours and 7 minutes) is spent inside apps and 20% (31 minutes) is spent on the mobile web.”

Granted, the numbers from Flurry’s study are just for the United States, and there are certainly going to be regional differences, especially in developing markets. But 80%? That’s a clear signal that smartphone and tablet users prefer consuming information within apps. All they need, conveniently enough for Twitter and its partners, is a mechanism to link apps together that gets around that pesky legacy system known as the web.

But it’s important to note that Twitter doesn’t even have a dedicated slice in the pie chart that Flurry uses to break down the time that consumers spend within apps in comparison to the web. Facebook does, however, and time spent on Facebook (18%) is second only to games (32%); time spent on Twitter is lumped into the generic “Social Networking” category, which garners just a measly 6% share of consumers’ time each month.

So yes, Twitter has a long road ahead of it to lay the foundation for the type of app-to-app connections that skip the mobile web. But if Twitter’s moves show early success, then others will surely follow (perhaps Facebook Home will provide some sort of a unique spin), and Google stands to be the big (revenue) loser in this potential scenario.

Hat Tips:

Flurry, TechCrunch, AVC, Erick Schonfield, Wired, Image Credit: Flickr

Take Action!

Subscribe to get updates delivered to your inbox