Oneforty Opens Twitter App Store for Business, Details Funding from Boston, Seattle, and Bay Area Investors
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active on Twitter and such a force in the Silicon Valley ecosystem,” Fitton says. “He really gets the potential of the real-time Web and has been very supportive and kind to me all along.”
Parts of the news about the launch of the alpha version of oneforty’s e-commerce tools were reported last week, but the startup laid out all the details in its announcement today. Oneforty will still list all Twitter apps in its directory for free, but now Twitter developers who “claim” the apps listed on oneforty can also sell their apps directly through the site for a minimum price of $0.99 for a one-time download. Oneforty keeps a 25 percent commission. If developers choose, they can use oneforty’s application programming interface to send oneforty visitors who want to buy their apps back to their own sites to complete the purchase (but oneforty still gets the commission).
Fitton says there’s an important reason why oneforty is setting its commission rate at 25 percent, which is 5 percent lower than the commission charged by the iTunes App Store and most other app stores. “We aim to treat developers differently than other platforms,” she says. “We’re not out there charging the industry average of 30 percent just because we can. And if you are listing an app that has to be sold through your site or even the iTunes App Store, we don’t mind, whereas other app stores have these long, tortuous contracts and really tough terms. Twitter is a wide-open ecosystem that is much more open and friendly, and we really believe in our developers.”
Fitton admits that she gets “a little crazy idealistic from time to time” about supporting Twitter developers, but “they are the ones who are going to go out and build the stuff that really changes people’s lives,” she says. “They are the first priority—they are the ones who get my cell number.”
The most expensive Twitter apps listed on oneforty right now are social media monitoring tools such as CoTweet, which is designed to help business users track conversations about their brands in the Twittersphere, and costs $1,500 per month. Oneforty isn’t set up yet to earn a fee if a visitor ends up using CoTweet or any other subscription-based service—the alpha test of its e-commerce tools only covers one-time downloads. But as more and more casual users discover Twitter, Fitton expects that the oneforty store will include a growing number of apps priced under $20.
“You and I may have been using Twitter for years, so we understand how to set up TweetDeck, but some of the biggest-selling categories down the road may be clients optimized for getting your mom on to Twitter, and they’ll cost $15 because it’s worth it to avoid the hassle,” she says.
I asked Fitton to deny or confirm the oft-floated rumor that oneforty will decamp for San Francisco or Silicon Valley, where it would be closer to Twitter itself. She flatly denied it. “Especially now that we have a Boston VC who understands what we are trying to do, there is no reason to leave,” she says. “I talked to a ton of developers in France at Le Web [the Web community conference held in December] and there is almost a sense of relief that we are outside Silicon Valley, because it means we understand what’s going on for developers in other cities. Developers are not interested in the Valley echo chamber. And Boston is a little more focused on revenue streams and business models, which is a plus too.”
I also asked Fitton for her assessment of Twitter itself—the company without which oneforty wouldn’t exist, but which has come under fire periodically for putting off its own search for a serious business model and for underinvesting in infrastructure, security, and the like.
“I think they are doing great,” Fitton says. “They have a really smart guy on board now in Dick Costolo [the chief operating officer, who is a former Googler and co-founded FeedBurner]. They are a top-15 site globally, and traffic to their API has been growing very healthily. They have really let a genie out of the bottle that is not going to go back in. I’m long past my days of worrying, ‘Will they ever be stable.'”
But even in a worst-case scenario such as a corporate meltdown at Twitter—“Twittermageddon,” to use Fitton’s word—oneforty would still be okay, she argues. “Everything else has gone real-time,” she notes. “A huge percentage of the apps in our system are built to talk to FriendFeed and Facebook and LinkedIn Updates. So Twitter is not going away—but even if it did, there is great flexibility in this ecosystem of tools.”
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