Non-Official Twitter Clients Still Widely Used

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.

Twitter Client Usage Statistics

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?

91 Comments on “Non-Official Twitter Clients Still Widely Used”

  1. Hi Mark. There’s another explanation for the gap if you look closely at what Twitter claimed. Their statement “90% of active Twitters users use official Twitter apps on a monthly basis.” says only that 90% use official Twitter apps – it doesn’t say they use them for most of their interaction with Twitter. For example, I use Tweetdeck to read and send virtually all my tweets but occasionally will use the twitter web site. Every month I’m sure to use an ‘official client’ at least once but still I’m mostly using a third-party tool. I suspect many other people have similar use patterns.

  2. Not to mention that basic functionality such as tweeting from multiple accounts isn’t supported by the main Twitter dashboard.

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  9. Further to Jeff’s point, one user could be using multiple apps for different devices.

    i.e. I avidly use Tweetdeck on my PC (non-official) but only user Twitter for iPhone (official) on my phone.

    So technically I’m in the 90%, even though the majority of my tweets are probably sent through Tweetdeck.

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  13. I think it’s smart that Twitter is pushing devs to iterate on their platform. Their ecosystem’s sustenance will be based on devs abilities to make the platform more and more useful, as is the case with apps like Foursquare and HootSuite. If you’re interested, Paul Gillin and I will be discussing this today in episode 5 of the B2B Social Media Podcast at http://www.ontherecordpodcast.com, which we’re recording today.

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  22. It would be interesting to do a breakdown of “clients” by separating actual end-user reading clients from things that post automatically such as Twitterfeed, etc.

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  25. Twitter: Great API; crappy website. Tweetdeck has so many users because it already does what Twitter SHOULD do.

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  30. You mention Seesmic but it’s not shown on the non-official apps pie. Is it part of the 27.4%. If so, what part. Can you break it out? I was pretty surprised that non of Seesmic’s clients apparently have more than a 1.6% share.

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  41. Comes down to what you’re trying to achieve with twitter. The “official” twitter apps are great for simple usage but if you’re serious about surfing the status highway and interacting with the crowd independent of device and location and you need to manage your game then you need serious tools.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t see more “Other Apps” sending tweets as blogs and other social media increase the distribution of content through channels like twitter and its API.

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  45. Ultimately there has to be a business model for Twitter. The devs who are being hit by the new arrangement are the ones making twitter clients, not companies like Sysomos and its competition who are still allowed to build part of their business model on Twitter APIs. It’s pretty obvious that Twitter (the company) has decided to monitise through advertising through their Twitter clients and they couldn’t do this (or felt they couldn’t) with a raft of competing clients diluting the number of potential eyeballs for Twitter the company. Never mind all the mumbo-jumbo about usability, this is about the control of advertising.

    Unless some good hearted and deep pocketed soul comes along and funds Twitter in perpetuity something had to give. I prefer my 3rd party twitter app but how else are Twitter to keep paying the bills?

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  63. The disconnect between Sarver’s figure and yours is that they have nothing to do with each other. Trying to explain the difference is simply confused. Why don’t you compare to “number of users who use NON-official apps on a monthly basis”? That number would be pretty high I think. (You do see that it wouldn’t be 10%, right?)

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  76. I prefer receiving my twitter info via Flipboard… And it didnt even appear in the search… Surprised me to be below 1.6% of 42%…

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