I have never been a fan of Twitter — I still honestly have a love-hate relationship with the service — but TweetDeck was the exception. Having the app on my phone was incredibly powerful. It’s probably the main reason that I grudgingly caved and joined the flock. The Twitter mobile apps have always been horribly unreliable, so the news this week that Twitter is looking at offering a paid version of TweetDeck has piqued my interest.
To be clear, Twitter has not said that a premium TweetDeck is definitively coming. And yet TweetDeck would be the perfect comeback story for the company.
Twitter acquired TweetDeck in May 2011. Then in March 2013, the company announced plans to shut down TweetDeck AIR, TweetDeck for Android, and TweetDeck for iPhone in May 2013. The outcry was massive, and yet Twitter didn’t seem to care.
Here was Twitter’s statement at the time:
TweetDeck is the most powerful Twitter tool for tracking real-time conversations. Its flexibility and customizable layout let you keep up with what’s happening on Twitter, across multiple topics and accounts, in real time. To continue to offer a great product that addresses your unique needs, we’re going to focus our development efforts on our modern, web-based versions of TweetDeck. To that end, we are discontinuing support for our older apps: TweetDeck AIR, TweetDeck for Android and TweetDeck for iPhone. They will be removed from their respective app stores in early May and will stop functioning shortly thereafter. We’ll also discontinue support for our Facebook integration.
I always considered this move to be a huge mistake. You should never screw with the tools your power users rely on.
And now, suddenly, Twitter is realizing that TweetDeck might be valuable after all. Sadly, this is likely only because the company sees a revenue opportunity:
We’re conducting a survey to assess the interest in a new, more enhanced version of Tweetdeck. We regularly conduct user research to gather feedback about people’s Twitter experience and to better inform our product investment decisions, and we’re exploring several ways to make Tweetdeck even more valuable for professionals.
Let me help you out, Twitter. Find the old code base for all the TweetDeck apps, add in the four years of development that you missed, and then start adding premium features you can reasonably charge for.
Put another way:
- Bring back TweetDeck native apps
- Throw developer resources at TweetDeck
My main concern is that Twitter will simply relaunch TweetDeck with minimal effort with the expectation companies and users will start paying. This will inevitably fail, and the product will be discontinued all over again in a few years. Or the survey results will hint at all this, and Twitter will have perfectly orchestrated another missed opportunity.
TweetDeck has the potential to be wonderful again. It’s great that Twitter may no longer squander TweetDeck, but the key is not treating it like an easy money grab.
You're doing it all wrong @jack. Kill the Twitter apps, not TweetDeck.
— Emil Protalinski (@EPro) March 17, 2016
ProBeat is a column in which Emil rants about whatever crosses him that week.