Here's Who Ended Up Getting Screwed By Twitter

Shark attack


Just over a year ago, Twitter stared making noises that it planned to provide users “official” versions of services that, until then, had typically been provided by third-parties – ads, photo-sharing, URL shortening and mobile apps.At the time, we explained that this meant that a whole lot of the startups built around Twitter were totally screwed.

Since then, Twitter has taken serious steps in its promised direction – re-designing, buying apps, shutting others down, and making life difficult for some of its enemies in the ecosystem.

So, a year later, where does everything stand?

TwitPic, yfrog, TweetPhoto,, TwitVid

When Twitter updated its user-interface last fall to #NewTwitter, it began pulling photos and videos from third-parties and embedding them itself. This was a blessing and a curse for third-parties like TwitPic. It meant that Twitter was embracing them -- for now -- but that Twitter would be getting the traffic.

The rumour is that Twitter is currently working on its own photo product, so these startups could end up being more hosed then we know.

WHAT WE WROTE: TwitPic lets you share photos on Twitter. It hosts them and gives them short URLs.

This is on the short list of functions Fred Wilson singled out for slaughter.

TwitPic is bootstrapped but profitable on over $2 million/year in revenue (half of which is profit!). If TwitPic gets crushed by Twitter, at least founder Noah Everett will have banked some cash for a rainy day.

Twitter eventually launched its own URL shortener,, and made it the default on and all of its owned-and-operated apps -- which now includes TweetDeck.

But still has a business in providing URLs for publishers that want to track Twitter metrics. Bitly has about 10,000 white label clients.

WHAT WE WROTE:, a Betaworks company, is the leading URL shortener.

URL shorteners are also explicitly marked for death.

A source close to says has made significant progress diversifying off of Twitter and that only 30% to 40% of's clicks are now 'Twitter-related.' The rest are said to come from email, Facebook, Meebo, Foursquare, and other services. This diversity reduces's dependence on Twitter, but does not eliminate it.


TinyURL, meanwhile, is hosed.

WHAT WE WROTE: Another URL shortener on death row.


Twitter is close to buying TweetDeck for a price close to $50 million.

WHAT WE WROTE: TweetDeck is a desktop client for Twitter (and Facebook, MySpace, etc.)

Twitter plans to redo its homepage in a way that makes you 'not want to use a desktop client'. That's hard to picture, and TweetDeck had better hope Twitter can't pull it off.

Like most Twitter apps, it's already sought to reduce its dependence on the Twitter platform by becoming a sort of 'social media dashboard,' so they've got a chance. got kicked off Facebook, but it's still chugging away on Twitter. Mike Ovitz's son Christopher was a big hire for them and he just left.

WHAT WE WROTE: connects highly followed Twitterites with brands for in-stream advertising.

Advertising wasn't singled out for slaughter, but it was suspiciously absent from Fred's list of things third-party developers should be working on. investor (and VC blogger extraordinaire) Mark Suster wrote that he's confident can survive because it's a 'multi-stream' ad network, not focused just on Twitter.


OneRiot now describes itself as a generic mobile ad network.

WHAT WE WROTE: OneRiot is a real time search engine. The good news: it searches more than just Twitter. The bad news: Fred seems to think search is the sort of thing third parties shouldn't be doing.


Twitter went out and purchased a bunch of its own Twitter apps, including TweetDeck the 'inspiration' for Seesmic. Now it promotes them like crazy. Seesmic is not one of them. It is now a 'social dashboard,' more akin to than TweetDeck.

WHAT WE WROTE: Seesmic is a lot like TweetDeck. They've taken in a lot of funding, and like to emphasise that they offer more than just Twitter.

But they're sure hoping Twitter's homepage redesign is a flop.

It's worth noting that Seesmic started out as a user-generated video site, so this isn't the first time they've had to reinvent their business. We tend to like startups that can do 180's so we're curious to see what Seesmic comes up with next.


Twitteriffic, from the Icon Factory, is still hanging in there. But Twitter is doing all it can to make life miserable for client-makers.


Twitterrific makes Twitter clients for all things Apple: Macs, iPhones, and the iPad.

Unfortunately for Twitterific, mobile clients are pretty much going to be superseded by Twitter's own apps.


If Twitter hadn't just bought TweetDeck, it would probably have acquired HootSuite. But it didn't, and now Twitter will promote TweetDeck like crazy -- mostly at the expense of HooSuite.

WHAT WE WROTE: Another desktop client, another entry on Twitter's list of companies to kill.

140 Proof

140 Proof ads are still in Echofon, making the company a possible acquisition target for Echofon owners UberMedia. But Twitter doesn't want users to use third-party clients like Echofon, and it will keep making it harder for them to operate. 140 Proof ads will never appear in Twitter-owned clients.

We understand 140 Proof's business is doing well enough, but that it's pivoted off Twitter and into Facebook.


140 Proof places ads in Twitter streams on clients like HootSuite.

If Twitter successfully kills desktop and mobile clients, 140 Proof is screwed. If Twitter moves to take over advertising, 140 Proof is screwed. Drink up.


TweetUp eventually acquired a whole bunch of Twitter apps, including UberTwitter and Echofon, and became UberMedia. Twitter booted it from the ecosystem a couple months ago for a few days. Uber was going to buy TweetDeck, but Twitter stepped in and paid a heavy premium to keep it out of Uber's hands. We see another pivot coming.

WHAT WE WROTE: Bill Gross, already the inventor of search advertising as we know it through Overture, launched his Twitter advertising-slash-search engine company literally a day before Twitter announced its own ad business.

For now, TweetUp and Twitter's ad model are somewhat different: TweetUp uses a bid-driven marketplace and will be distributed throughout the web via search and rollover widgets; Twitter's ads, meanwhile, will initially be sponsored tweets that appear in search. But both are driven by keywords, and they could likely quickly become directly competitive.

So what's next?

Twitter is going to keep pushing to own the end-to-end Twitter user experience -- including apps and ads. There are pros and cons to this manoeuvre.

The advantage is that it will probably make Twitter easier to use and possibly more mainstream -- something that needs to happen if Twitter is going to grow larger than 21 million or so monthly active users.

The disadvantage is that by discouraging other entrepreneurs from entering the space, Twitter will have to do all the product and monetization innovation itself. If Twitter had let the ecosystem flourish, it would have been able to buy, steal, or tax any successful business models built on its platform.

If you think these startups got screwed, wait till you read about Twitter's forgotten cofounder…

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