Next generation Twitter apps

I’ve been thinking about and playing with the official Twitter app for iPad since its release last week. The best praise I can give Loren Brichter and his team for the UI “stacking” breakthrough is: I wish I had thought of it.

But it’s clear after an informal survey of friends, and listening to folks on Twitter, that the UI might be too clever for its own good. Many people can’t quite figure out if they love it or hate it. And on top of the UI risk, Twitter for iPad doesn’t bring any new features to the table.

Third-party Twitter clients won’t be wiped out by this. So now what?

The first Twitter clients (led by Twitterrific for Mac) provided a quick way to check on your friends without visiting the web site. The second batch of Twitter clients (mostly on mobile) provided a full replacement for the site.

I believe we’re about to see a third generation of clients that will go way beyond what the web site can do. There was worry when Twitter bought Tweetie that it would destroy the third-party Twitter market, and sure, some developers will fail or be discouraged from trying to compete against a free official product. But really what it does is raise the bar — that to succeed Twitter clients should be more than just a one-to-one mapping between UI and the Twitter API.

One feature is filtering. “TweetAgora for iPhone”:http://tweetagora.com/ has muting and an interesting live aggregation view, like a client-side extension of Twitter lists. “Hibari for Mac”:http://www.hibariapp.com/ recently shipped with an attractive UI and keyword filtering, muting, and integrated search results.

And there’s other stuff I want to see, like archiving tweets and better search and curation beyond simple favorites. I’ve been working on some of these too, in a brand new iPad app for Twitter. I can’t wait to share the details as it gets closer to release.

Not unlike “Marco’s post on the subject”:http://www.marco.org/208454730, my hope is that free apps and paid apps compete in separate worlds of the App Store. When Twitter for iPad shipped it jumped to the number 1 spot in free apps, but maybe you don’t have to compete directly with that. Maybe if you hold your ground somewhere in the top paid list, that’s enough to find an audience.