Apple thrashes against Amazon, Google, RIM...

Ronny Kerr · June 7, 2011 · Short URL:

...Facebook, AT&T, Verizon and many, many more (some perspective on WWDC announcements)

Like some wildly thrashing gargantuan, Apple announced several new products this week that intensify its battle with competitors as large as Facebook and Google, while shoving aside small third-party developers in the App Store.

Thought about separately, each new announcement wasn’t particularly groundbreaking or thrilling; taken as a whole, however, Apple’s WWDC represents a multi-directional spearing that could either broaden the company’s power even more, or finally stretch it thin.

Here’s a nice, clean breakdown of Apple’s latest battles:

iCloud vs Apple and Amazon (and just about every music subscription service)

Leading most discussions in the wake of WWDC is iCloud, Apple’s new cloud storage service, arriving just a few weeks shy of Amazon Cloud Drive and Google Music Beta. Completely free for 5GB, the service is intended to succeed (and far surpass) Apple’s pricey MobileMe, a cloud platform for hosting files like photos and music.

All anyone really seems to care about is the music service.

Amazon is in trouble, right off the bat. The online retailer, which famously cut the cost of its Kindle e-reader as soon as Barnes & Noble announces the Nook’s price, just got a taste of its own medicine: iCloud only costs $24.99 per year, letting users upload up to 25,000 songs. Compare that with Amazon, which charges $50 per year for 5,000 songs or $200 per year for 20,000 songs. (Google has yet to release a pricing plan for its Music Beta cloud service.)

Beyond Amazon and Google, smaller companies like MOG and Rdio might be in even more trouble. The least expensive pricing plans from those services run around $5 per month, on par with Amazon’s yearly cost. And they don’t even let you upload your own music, so if they’re missing your favorite song, you’re out of luck.

Twitter integration vs Facebook Connect

By baking deep Twitter integration into its iOS 5 platform, Apple has done the microblogging company a huge favor. No longer will Twitter sit in the shadow of its social networking sibling Facebook, since it will soon have instant and daily visibility to the millions of iPhone and iPad users around the world. Why Apple decided to natively enable single sign-on for Twitter and not Facebook is anyone’s guess, but you can bet Facebook isn’t too happy about being snubbed.

iMessages vs BlackBerry (or just about every wireless provider)

Apple’s new cross-platform messaging application isn’t just a shiny version of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). The service provides group messaging, a way to send multimedia, contacts, and location, and you can even see when the other person is typing, like on a desktop or Web chat service. It may not kill SMS anytime soon, since, believe it or not, many people still do not own iPhones, but it’s still not great for RIM, looking more and more like a dying species.

...and the third-party developers

Several of Apple’s announcements represent pretty large-scale attacks on, as in the case of mobile messaging above, a whole plethora of third-party developers. The running mentality (think: Twitter) is that the 800-pound gorilla of a company is an absolute jerk for copying the same services provided by small developers on its own platform.

But maybe that’s not the case. Maybe you don’t just call it quits because Apple or Twitter started doing what you’re doing.

One prominent developer, Instapaper creator Marco Arment, is actually positive about competing with a native Apple feature:

“If Reading List [for Safari] gets widely adopted and millions of people start saving pages for later reading, a portion of those people will be interested in upgrading to a dedicated, deluxe app and service to serve their needs better. And they’ll quickly find Instapaper in the App Store.”

That’s right, all you Twitter developers. Stop complaining and just make something better.

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What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.