Last week, at Twitter's first Flight mobile developer conference, the company tried to rebuild previously burned bridges by convincing developers that it is finally expanding its platform for mobile development beyond the current scope.
Twitter wants to implant itself in the hearts of the development, distribution and revenue cycles for mobile apps. The plan is audacious because of its potential to catapult the company into a whole new mobile stratosphere.
Fabric, the new mobile platform designed to make it easier for developers to create compelling apps, is comprised of three components, or kits, that aim to address what Twitter sees as the most common and pervasive app development challenges: stability, distribution, and revenue and identity.
‘The Future of Mobile Software Development’
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo says Fabric is "the future of mobile software development, a future that is built upon a collection of fully integrated, end-to-end services that combine together to form a framework." The new mobile framework reaches far beyond Twitter's current domain, and it could have lasting effects on many of today's most popular mobile apps, as well as apps released in the coming years.
The " mobile services layer" was cobbled together using Twitter's previous acquisitions of Crashlytics, an app performance analytics company, and MoPub, a hosted ad-serving service. The entire suite of services, for Android and iOS, will be available to developers for free.
Twitter could play a much more powerful role in the mobile ecosystem if it can convince developers to use the Fabric tools. (More than 1,000 developers were present for the Fabric announcements at Flight)
The upside for Twitter could be two-fold. The company could play a larger role in the future of mobile, and it could see a revenue windfall from its cut of ad dollars generated by MoPub.
Twitter's message to developers is clear: Come for the free Fabric tools to make your apps more stable and widely distributed, and stick around for the cross-device ad platform that makes us all money.
The 3 'Threads' of Fabric
The first "thread," or goal, of Fabric is to stem the tide of app crashes. "The scale of this problem is immense," says Jeff Seibert, co-founder of Crashlytics and director of product for Fabric.
Crashlytics identified more than 5.5 billion mobile app crashes during the past 30 days, and that number is based only on the apps it tracks. Developers who use Crashlytics receive instant crash alerts, along with details on the lines of code that went awry and aggregated views of the bugs so they can prioritize fixes.
"Quality is absolutely paramount," says Seibert, who adds that with millions of apps clamoring for users' attention in app stores, negative reviews based on recurring crashes can impact an entire business.
"Whether you're building for iOS or Android, and whether you're a student in your dorm room or working at a large enterprise, the problems are the same," Seibert says.
Maintaining app stability is important, but even with that piece in place many developers still struggle to reach critical mass. Gaining exposure can be just as difficult as building a quality mobile app.
Twitter wants to help developers get their apps noticed by convincing them to integrate more content from — you guessed it — Twitter.
Twitter Kit, the distribution thread of fabric, lets developers embed native tweets in their apps, and it includes a tweet composition tool that encourages users to share on Twitter without leaving the apps.
Finally there's MoPub, the crown jewel that fuels Twitter's revenue potential. MoPub served more than 170 billion ads during the last 30 days, which equates to almost one ad each day for every person on the planet. The mobile ad platform supports banners, interstitials, video and recently improved native ads.
Developers can integrate the MoPub Kit into their apps and compete for ads from the highest bidder in the MoPub Marketplace exchange. The platform also supports direct advertisers and various ad networks.
Twitter released Fabric to all of its Flight attendees, and the company says it will soon make the tools available to the general developer community.