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IDG News Service - Twitter executives will likely face a tough audience at the company's first conference for third-party developers, many of whom are concerned that the company is building applications and tools that could compete with -- and squash -- their own.
Until recently, Twitter and developers enjoyed a long honeymoon, after the company launched its minimalistic, bare-bones microblogging service and generously opened up its platform so that external applications could be created for it.
Developers responded by creating desktop clients, mobile interfaces, search engines, photo sharing tools, "tweet" monitoring software and profile customization wares, to mention just a few.
Currently, more than 50,000 third-party Twitter applications exist, many of them generating revenue for developers of all sizes, from individuals to larger vendors.
During the first several years of its existence, Twitter, which was founded in 2006, operated with a small group of employees who seemed to spend most of their time scrambling to keep the site up and running, because it crashed so often.
Things are different now. Twitter employs more than 170 people, it is much more stable and its popularity has skyrocketed. More than 50 million "tweets" are posted every day, and unique users grew 608 percent to 69.5 million in February of this year, compared with February of last year, according to comScore.
Twitter, which for years paid little attention to making money, just introduced an advertising system, and has recently built and released applications it considers core to its mission, becoming a competitor to some external developers.
At Chirp, the developer conference to be held Wednesday and Thursday in San Francisco, Sean Callahan, CEO of TweetPhoto, expects Twitter officials to spell out their intentions regarding the company's application platform.
"I want to get some clarity around the state of the Twitter developer ecosystem and what the plans are for it," said Callahan, whose company has grown its size and revenue very rapidly thanks to the popularity of TweetPhoto, a social-media sharing platform, among developers and end-users alike.
"I'm looking for reassurance that they'll continue to support the developer community. Are they going to provide the same level of support they did, now that they are in competition [with developers]? Will they still offer the same API [application programming interface] calls? Will they hold back certain API calls that make their apps better than everybody else's?" he said.
"We know that Twitter wants to keep growing and moving and whatnot, so it's really important for them to lay down their road map for us all. It's been coming out piecemeal over the last year, so we're always reacting to it," Stone said, referring to the launch of new, significant capabilities like geolocation and lists.