Why Twitter Bought TweetDeck

I’ve been waiting for Twitter to acquire TweetDeck – or another tool for managing the distribution of content to Twitter and other networks.

Twitter has 200+ million users. It’s the only platform I’ve ever seen that is managed at such a high level outside of its own tools (non-official apps). According to this article, a sampling of 25 million tweets indicated that 42% came from a non-official app. Of course, this could be thrown off when 2.2% of Twitter users account for 60% of all activity.

This isn’t all bad though. After all, look at how well Facebook did with their “openness” over time. Take a look at the super comprehensive list of tools that are built around Twitter. Anytime companies are building their companies off of your company, it’s a good thing.

My guess is there are two main (and somewhat connected) reasons for the acquisition: 1) market share of tweets from non-Twitter tools, and 2) defense.

With an estimated 42% of tweets coming from non-official apps, third-party publishing is getting out of control. Twitter is reigning in that market share for a reason. They redesigned the Twitter home page last fall to feature more multimedia and be more user-friendly. Additionally, they redesigned their mobile site earlier this month (to some users). Very few companies at this level of popularity have gone through so much scrutiny over a revenue model. With expected ad revenues to reach $150 million in 2011, and possibly $250 million in 2012, and the attraction of Coca-Cola, Starbucks, and other major brands’ advertising dollars, Twitter needs to find the fine balance between third-party development onto the platform and control over the point of origin of tweets.

There are also a lot of rumors that Twitter was in a bidding war with the soon-to-be competitive UberMedia, therefore, it’s likely that there was a very “defensive” component to this move. Assuming TweetDeck makes up a great deal of that 42% of tweets from non-official apps, Twitter couldn’t let UberMedia get that big of a jump on an upcoming, competitive micro-blogging platform.

The move also highlights the impact that third-party platforms are having on the major social networks. (To an extent, this is also happening in the enterprise space with social media management companies like Shoutlet.) These outside platforms are designing tools that provide powerful features and cater to heavy users. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said: “TweetDeck is a great example of a third-party developer that designed tools for the incredibly important audience of Twitter power-users and, in turn, created value for the network as a whole.” That is also a good thing – and makes the experience richer for everyone.

Aaron Everson is the President and COO at Shoutlet.