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Could Twitter Be the Next Big Platform for Apps?

Facebook crowned Candy Crush Saga a King. Would Twitter ever be able to do something similar?

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You may have heard by now — King, maker of Candy Crush Saga, is a multi-billion-dollar mobile company.

What you may not know is that Facebook played a big part in making that happen. In little more than a year, Facebook has become a go-to spot for mobile app distribution, and it’s making money both for developers and for Facebook.

Here’s a thought experiment for you: Can Twitter replicate Facebook’s massive mobile app advertising success? It’s something that the microblogging service has toyed around with to some degree for a few years, though it has yet to take it truly seriously.

Facebook’s pitch to developers isn’t super complicated. The social media giant wants app developers large and small to integrate their apps with Facebook. That will surface app activity inside the Facebook News Feed, which could drive more downloads.

The real boon to developers, though, is in the paid advertising. Facebook’s mobile app install advertising product shows off a developer’s app in your feed and, when clicked, sends users out to download the apps. Last year, those ads drove 245 million app installations from Apple’s App Store and Google Play, Facebook has said. (Anecdotally, I’ve heard from small-time developers that they’ve seen a healthy boost in downloads from buying the ads.)

Right now, Twitter’s offering in this space is rudimentary. Through the use of its “Cards” technology, a developer can insert a line of code that will preview his or her app inside the tweet itself, with the option to send a viewer to the App Store to download it after clicking a link. It works similarly to Facebook’s ad product, only it’s free and open to developers who clear it with Twitter’s approval. (Look at the art below for a better idea of what I’m talking about.)

If Twitter actually promoted this tech heavily, it could boost the company’s bottom line. Pitch developers on buying a Promoted Tweet advertisement with the app install Card up and running, and Twitter rakes in ad revenue while developers have yet another way to promote their apps.

But Facebook has a few major advantages here. For one, it’s got massive scale. At 1.2 billion users, Facebook reaches enough people on the planet that it can send great download traffic to developers, which in turn will encourage them to buy more ads. That’s multiples beyond Twitter’s 230 million-plus users — a number that Twitter is already struggling to jumpstart.

Moreover, Facebook has a wealth of knowledge about stuff you care about. That makes for much better targeting, which means you’ll probably have a better chance of seeing app advertisements that you’d actually click on. It’s unclear how deep Twitter’s knowledge of its users is compared to Facebook, but at the very least, Facebook has a much bigger sample size of data to work with.

Twitter has shown at least some willingness to court the developer crowd. It held a mobile developer event at its San Francisco headquarters last year, and wants to expand the types of Cards technology beyond its sixseven current offerings.

To be sure, we have no idea whether Twitter actually wants to be the next great app distributor for developers.

Facebook has done well bolstering its image as an app distribution platform. But Twitter, which has a troubled history with its developer base, still has quite a way to go. And aside from regaining the trust of app makers who are deciding to work with the company, Twitter just hasn’t promoted its Cards technology to the degree that Facebook has boosted its own platform.

It’s unclear how aggressively Twitter will pursue developers in the future. But right now, the company has a different top priority: Attracting lots and lots of new users, while keeping the ones it already has.

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