Twitter has acquired Atebits, the firm behind the most popular Twitter mobile client, stirring discussion about the company’s role in apps development.
The announcement on Friday follows remarks by company leaders last week that suggest it plans to build its own “killer apps”.
Atebits, run by former Apple executive Loren Brichter, sells the iPhone client Tweetie which sells for $2.99 (€2.19) in the App Store. It will be renamed Twitter for iPhone and made free, Twitter co-CEO Evan Williams said.
Williams said users were “confused” looking for Twitter apps in the AppStore. “People are looking for an app from Twitter, and they're not finding one. So, they get confused and give up.”
Fred Wilson, a Twitter director and investor at private equity firm Union Square Ventures, said in a blog post last week that he was surprised at the lack of “killer apps” on Twitter so far.
But he said much of the work on the Twitter platform to date had been in filling holes. New functions like search and URL-shorteners should have been available when Twitter launched “or it should have built those services right into the Twitter experience,” he wrote.
The acquisition, and the remarks by Wilson and Williams, have sparked fears among developers that the company aimed to dominate the apps space.
In a discussion on Google Groups page and on Twitter under the #unionoftwitterapps tag, the company was accused of “spinning” the Atebits acquisition.
Ryan Sarver, Twitter’s platform director, apologised for labelling a new BlackBerry app as “official”.
“[Y]ou won't see that language used with Twitter clients in the future,” he said. “We believe strongly that the [developer] ecosystem is critical to our success and this move doesn't change that.”
Twitter is due to hold its first developer conference, called Chirp, in San Francisco this week.