Twitter’s One Million Dollar Stylesheet

Twitter’s One Million Dollar Stylesheet
App Store

At a recent party conversation brought up iPhone applications and Twitter (ok, perhaps ‘party’ is used lightly here).  Tweetie, Twitterific, TweetDeck, TwitBird (interestingly just labeled “Twitter” in the app store), Twittelator Pro and Echofon are all paid iPhone apps ranging from $1-$5 USD (and all have been in the top 20 paid social networking apps in the app store this week).

Their current sales combined are well over $1M USD with the possibility that  Tweetie alone has passed that mark (this guess is based off of contrasting the top grossing app list with the top apps, taking apps that publish their data publicly to create a known data point).  Interviews with other top app developers had guesses from $300,000 total to $200,000 a week for Tweetie, although the actual number is not disclosed and most likely not as sexy.   Nevertheless, that is quite a bit of cash for access to Twitter on the iPhone, but just why so much?

Simple.  There is no iPhone specific stylesheet.  If you access twitter.com on your iPhone in Safari, you are redirected to m.twitter.com with a stripped down mobile version of Twitter.

Twitter iPhone Mobile

Their current mobile version is screaming fast at less than 9KB with only four items loading (about a half a second on the ATT&T Edge network) which is really nice, except it lacks in common basic features such as follow and reply.  It is optimized for a T9 keyboard layout, which is useless for the iPhone.  If you go to a user you have to tap ‘Standard’ to then zoom in and tap follow.

iPhone Stylesheet Bottom

This is why the apps are selling so well, because the user experience on the iPhone is remarkably bad.  Which puzzles me.  Why is it?  You can detect the device and present a seperate stylesheet, which should take about an hour to make (I’m shocked a fan has not already done this) and helps to solve one of the major problems of using twitter. The lack of stylesheet means users will flock to devices, perhaps piling in another $1M in sales.

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