During its Flight mobile developer conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, Twitter took the wraps off a platform called Fabric that "makes it easy for developers to build great apps." More than that, though, Fabric provides a way for Twitter to become an integral part of a new and wider universe of mobile apps.
Built on a combination of technologies from Twitter and two of its recent acquisitions -- Crashlytics and MoPub -- Fabric is a software development kit (SDK) "built with ease of use in mind," said Jeff Seibert, Twitter's director of mobile platform (and former CEO of Crashlytics), writing in a post on Twitter's Developer blog on Wednesday. It's aimed at helping developers build more crash-proof apps, generate revenue through mobile ads, and take advantage of both Twitter's content streams and sign-in systems.
In return for providing developers with a free business-building SDK that's easy to use, Twitter gains the potential to extend its reach beyond the confines of its 140-character-limited live stream of Tweets. As The Wall Street Journal noted on its apps blog, this represents Twitter looking for "its Google moment," the point at which a tech company begins flexing its muscles across a much broader business landscape.
'Less Time Debugging'
Twitter has already released Fabric to all the attendees of the Flight conference, and plans to extend availability "in coming weeks" to both current Crashlytics and MoPub customers as well as to the broader mobile developer community. In addition to being easy to use, Seibert wrote that Fabric takes "just minutes" to install, with most features requiring only a few lines of code.
The Crashlytics part of the platform is designed to help developers identify and resolve crash-causing bugs in their apps more quickly and easily, Seibert said.
"It makes the time between detecting, accessing and fixing bugs much shorter so you spend less time debugging and more time focused on building great apps," he wrote. "And beyond just identifying them, Crashlytics is able to isolate the root cause down to the exact line of code, reducing the time it takes for you to fix the bug and submit an update."
New capabilities added to Crashlytics since Twitter acquired the company in January 2013 will also help developers get user feedback on pre-release apps and access real-time analytics to monitor app performance.
'Digits' ID by Phone Number
Fabric also includes a Twitter Kit that makes it easier for developers to, among other things, natively embed Tweets into apps with just a few lines of code.
"Until now, putting Tweets in your app has meant hundreds of hours of work," Seibert said. With Fabric, he continued, users such as The Wall Street Journal will be able to, for example, quickly embed the latest Tweets from Tesla CEO Elon Musk in an online news story about the latest model from the automaker.
The MoPub feature of Fabric, meanwhile, will enable developers to integrate ads into their apps with just a few clicks and ensure that the highest-paying advertisers get precedence.
Another noteworthy feature of the Fabric Twitter Kit is Digits, a new system that lets developers create app sign-ins based on a user's phone number rather than relying on usernames, passwords or account links to social media sites. Digits, now available in 28 languages and 216 countries, can be implemented on the Web or via either iOS or Android devices.
By enabling phone-number-based sign-in built on Twitter's infrastructure, developers avoid the need for multiple agreements with multiple phone service carriers and SMS interchanges, Seibert said. It also gives them the ability to bring their apps to parts of their world where many people have smartphones but not e-mail addresses or computers.
"Users are central to most apps: all those people who play a game and track their high scores, create 6-second videos to share, order a burger and fries for pickup," Seibert said. "Whatever the use case, identity is central. Increasingly, the phone number, more than an e-mail address, is the primary identifier for an individual. In developing markets, it's often the only identifier, as smartphone owners often don't have e-mail addresses."