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Twitter Unveils Fabric, Its Welcome Gift to Mobile Developers

A kit full of tools for building new apps, atop Twitter's platform or not.

Kurt Wagner/ Re/code

Twitter unveiled Fabric on Wednesday, a new developer toolkit with software products to better build third-party mobile apps. Fabric was showcased by Twitter executives in San Francisco, including CEO Dick Costolo, at the company’s first mobile developers conference, Flight.

The launch wasn’t a total surprise, as Twitter was expected to release a toolkit of this nature, but the offering still marks Twitter’s first major step toward competing with companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon to support the back-end infrastructure for third-party mobile apps.

Twitter-owned companies like Crashlytics, which helps developers debug and test new apps, and MoPub, an exchange for mobile apps to fill advertising vacancies, already offered some of these services, but this is the first time Twitter has packaged them together.

Fabric isn’t intended solely for building new apps on top of the Twitter platform. The toolkit includes three distinct parts, two of which have nothing to do with Twitter’s core product. Twitter wants to help developers build mobile apps regardless of whether or not they work to benefit the Twitter stream. The hope is that by providing developers free tools to get their apps up and running, they’ll be able to build relationships that will provide long-term benefits to Twitter down the road.

A handful of partners, including Spotify and Jawbone, have already been testing Fabric. The three software bundles, which are all free of charge, look like this.

Crashlytics SDK

This element of Fabric is all about app stability. Crashlytics allows developers to quickly identify which lines of code caused their app to crash. It also allows them to distribute early versions of their app to beta users. Twitter updated some of its Crashlytics offerings Wednesday, adding the ability to send different builds of an app to different groups, and also added support for Android’s Native Development Kit, a unique software language for Android-specific apps.

MoPub SDK

With a few lines of code, any developer can use MoPub to monetize its app. The mobile ad exchange, which Twitter bought last year, fills vacant ad spaces within mobile apps by asking advertisers to bid on ad spots in real time. Developers can use the MoPub SDK to fill all kinds of ad slots, including banner ads or native ads.

MoPub is the part of Fabric that benefits Twitter’s bottom line. As the ad exchange, Twitter takes a small percentage of each ad payment. Twitter says MoPub has served more than 170 billion ads in the past 30 days alone.

 A look at Digits, Twitter’s new mobile number sign-in feature.
A look at Digits, Twitter’s new mobile number sign-in feature.
Kurt Wagner/ Re/code

Twitter SDK

This is the part of Fabric that benefits the Twitter product directly. Twitter login falls into this category, for example, where people can use their existing Twitter account to log in to new apps (and, hopefully, share data back to Twitter along the way).

Twitter’s new SDK includes a product called Digits, the ability for users to create a new account with a third-party app using only their phone number. Other apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp already use this kind of log-in, but now Twitter is trying to simplify it so all third-party developers can add this functionality to their app with a single line of code. This might be helpful in areas of the world where users don’t have email, but do have mobile devices.

The second big part of Twitter’s new SDK is an embed feature that makes it much simpler for developers to embed tweets directly in their app. This is possible now, but the new version of the software makes it much simpler, according to Jeff Seibert, product manager for Fabric. In other words, Twitter wants tweets to live outside of Twitter, and it expects developers to use its SDK to share more tweets in their apps. Moving forward, expect to see more tweets in the other apps you love.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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