Many of Twitter’s most passionate users have long clamoured for an option to let them pay for the service (yours truly included). The problem is I don’t think this will ever happen. The reality is that the advanced users who have been using the service since near the beginning — although probably make up a fairly good sized chunk of the service — are more than likely vastly outweighed by the millions of other novice users.
With the introduction of the refreshed web, iOS and Android apps, the new redefined user experience for Twitter is clearly aimed at simplicity and discovery. These are two crucial aspects, as one of the biggest complaints from new users is that they have a hard time connecting with other interesting people (my father is a prime example of this).
I have no doubt Twitter wants their service to expand and reach as many people in all corners of the world as possible, but for this to happen it needs to remain free continued to push paid sponsored advertisements in the form of Tweets and trends. Twitter needs to remain free, like Facebook, as I just can’t see a large majority of users paying for the service. If it was up to me I would put up some sort of donation page, or perhaps even offer a small $3 per month subscription option as a gesture of good will — if it meant no sponsored advertising. That’s just a pipe dream though, and I think most of us know that.
As for the design direction of their new apps, I know a lot of geeks don’t like where it’s going. Since I prefer to take a less pessimistic view, I see this as a positive and mutually beneficial direction for third party developers like Tapbots and Iconfactory. Taking Tapots’ Tweetbot app as an example, this is by far my favourite Twitter client on iOS. In light of the Twitter for iOS 4.0 release, the Tapbot guys saw a 2.5x boost in sales (Via Thenextweb) and it’s reached the number three spot in top paid social apps in the App Store. If this trend continues with more advanced Twitter users abandoning the official app, it means great news for third party developers. Considering some of the tough times these developers have faced in the past — what with the ever changing Twitter API and them buying up may third party development companies — their success is well deserved.
Bottom line, Twitter needs to do what it believes is right for the continued growth and success of their platform. This is not to say that they can’t strike a balance to meet the expectations and levels of happiness from their users — which of course they should — but we must remember that the expectations that we (geeks) have are simply not who they are trying to target. For us, there will always be the Tweetbots and Twitterrifics of the world to satiate our desire for more robust Twitter experiences.