The Twitter Ecosystem

ScreenshotTwitter is perhaps the best current example of the power of a simple API combined with a user base. With just 25 RESTful methods, the API is easy enough that any developer can learn how to use it in a morning. And judging by the applications listed on the Twitter Fan Wiki, many have done just that.

Whether you’re a casual Twitter user, someone who depends on it for communication with a workgroup, or a hardcore Twitterfan with hundreds of friends chattering away on your timeline, there are likely tools out there for you. Here are five of the more interesting – or curious – recent releases.

TwitterReply is aimed at the hardcore Twitter user. By default, Twitter emails you any direct messages to your account, but it’s easy to miss a reply sent across the public message stream, especially at peak hours. TwitterReply keeps an eye on your timeline and automatically emails you all messages directed at you, so that you get them even at times when you’re not paying close attention.

SecretTweet is a Twitter confessional. Similar to some of the other anonymous sites on the internet, it lets you post anything (well, up to 140 characters of anything) without attribution. The tweets are displayed on the web page and blasted out to the whole world via their Twitter account. People have confessed to losing their jobs, drug use, and crushes, among other things.

Qwitter is a more serious Twitter tool, this one from TobaccoFreeFlorida.com. Qwitter collects your specially formatted updates to track the number of cigarettes you’re smoking as you try to quit, and puts the information together into a graph. You can use this to track your declining consumption, or give the URL to others to hold you accountable.

SalesTwit is a CRM tool for Twitter. Sign up, load in a list of prospects that you’re ready to cold-call, and then it waits for you to tell it you have a few minutes free. Every time you do, SalesTwit will send you over the next prospect from your list so you can make contact. The idea is to help salesmen make use of those random minutes waiting in the line at the bank or between rounds of golf to make more sales.

TweetLater adds a scheduler to Twitter. With it, you can schedule tweets to be sent at a future time. This lets you, if you’re truly addicted, keep up the appearance of 24×7 tweeting. On a more useful level, it also means you can send yourself reminders for the future or schedule to announce events.

Of course, there’s a problem with basing an application on the Twitter API – the same problem we’ve talked about in relation to other cloud services. If Twitter goes down, then all of the services stacked on top of it go down as well. That means that you can’t build anything truly mission-critical on Twitter at the moment. But for services that you could live without, even if you don’t want to, it’s becoming a more attractive choice all the time as the userbase grows.