In unveiling changes to its API rules last week, Twitter’s Ryan Sarver claimed that according to the company’s data “90% of active Twitters users use official Twitter apps on a monthly basis.” Twitter defines “official” as applications it owns and operates for the Mac, iPad, Android and Windows Phone.
It was an assertion that captured our attention because previous studies by Sysomos suggested there were significantly more “non-official” users. In a June 2009 report, for example, we found TweetDeck had nearly 20% of the client market.
To determine usage of different Twitter clients, we reviewed a sample of 25 million tweets on March 11 – the day Twitter unveiled its new API policy. The data shows that 42% of tweets were made by non-officials apps – more than four times the amount claimed by Twitter.
Among the non-official group, the most popular apps were TweetDeck, UberSocial and Echofone, which are owned by Bill Gross’ UberMedia. Tweetdeck accounted for 5.5% of total tweets, compared with 19.9% in our June 2009 report.
UberMedia has emerged as rival to Twitter after building a large portfolio of Twitter-related services through acquisitions. Last month, Twitter suspended two of UberMedia’s services – UberTwitter and twitroyd – for “policy violations”.
So what’s disconnect between Twitter’s 90% claim, and our data analysis that shows Twitter only has 58% market share?
Here’s how the gap can be explained. Twitter’s number focus on the total number of user’s while our analysis looked at total tweets. It means there may be many Twitter “official” users who are not very active.
On the other hand, more enthusiastic and power users are using non-official services such as TweetDeck, UberSocial and Seesmic. This is not much of a surprise given many of these applications have many more features than Twitter.com despite recent improvements.
Twitter’s Sarver notes that consistent of user experience is very important to them, and they don’t want third-party apps to mimic the native apps. Sarver also points out that “this is happening organically – the number and market share of consumer client apps that are not owned or operated by Twitter has been shrinking”. Our June 2009 study showed that 55% tweets were made using non-offical apps, and the number now stands at 42%. With Twitter’s introduction of official mobile apps, acquisition of Tweetie, and redesign of Twitter.com, the market share of official apps is indeed growing, albeit slowly. What do you think, will official apps completely replace other client apps in future?