I’ve been writing a series of posts that emphasize the huge potential of Twitter allowing developers to place apps in tweets, but they all hinge on a critical issue: trust. Apps in tweets eliminate the need for click-throughs, because everything is now already in Twitter. If Twitter is the portal for a new generation of ecommerce, then everyone will have to implicitly trust what they find in Twitter. Most users will think that Twitter as a company is part of their transactions performed in tweet apps.
This confusion is similar to the origin of ecommerce back in the early dotcom. People would come to the sites I helped build at Andover.net, click a banner ad, and then make a purchase at the site the ad sent them too. When they had a problem with the purchase, they would complain to us, because they thought they had made the purchase from our site. This confusion of exactly where they “were” at any time on the web resolved after a few years, but it is sure to resurface with apps in Tweets.
How will Twitter deal with this trust issue? My fear is that they will try to strictly control who gets to build apps in tweets. The early stages of this attempt at control can be seen with Twitter Cards. These are the current precursors to apps in Tweets. Unlike the rest of the Twitter API, which is open to anyone with no approval required, developers must apply before they are even allowed to try working with Twitter Cards.
I understand Twitter’s point of view on this. They need to make sure reliable developers are building apps in tweets that users will think are actually coming from Twitter, but strict control and pre-approval is not how the Twitter API became so successful. I started working with the Twitter API 3 years ago exactly because there was no approval process, unlike Facebook, which played favorites with who it would allow to build apps. I’m certain that the same thing happened with the hundreds of thousands of developers who are working now with the Twitter API. I hate to be negative, and I really, really want to apps in tweets to succeed, but if Twitter has to approve each developer and app individually, the likelihood of failure is high.
So this is the pressure point around which the future of apps in tweets hinges. Twitter somehow has to find a way to maintain trust and security with apps in tweets while allowing a wide range of people to build these apps. If they decide to only allow venture funded companies in the Valley, or companies who make large ad buys to build apps in tweets, they will never reach critical mass.