Interview: We chat with the co-creator of Tweetro

Twitter recently announced plans to offer a native Windows 8 app sometime in the coming months. However, until then users of Windows 8 have to access third party apps. One of the most popular is Tweetro, which was developed by Lazyworm Applications. As it turned out, Tweetro was a bit too popular for Twitter, who recently changed their rules that restricted third party Twitter apps to just 100,000 users.

As we reported a few days ago, Tweetro hit that limit which forced Lazyworm Applications to pull the app from the Windows Store. However, the team plans to release a paid version of the app in the near future. We got Lazyworm Applications co-founder Atta Elayyan to talk more about his company, the Tweetro app and how he really feels about Twitter's new rules.

First, what can you tell us about Lazyworm Applications in general?

Lazyworm Applications is a start-up based out of Christchurch, New Zealand which Michael Choeung and I co-founded in late 2010 soon after the launch of first Windows Phone.  We saw a product (Windows Phone 7) that was still very immature but had the potential to become a unique and genuine alternative to the existing smartphone experiences available at the time.  More importantly, we realized that Microsoft were headed in a new and exciting direction and we wanted to be a part of it. Our background designing and developing desktop applications using ‘WPF’ (Windows Presentation Foundation) meant that we had the skills and tools to immediately start building apps for the phone and that’s exactly what we did.

Prior to all the recent news surrounding Tweetro, we were primarily known for delivering ‘Metrotube’ the first, most downloaded and highest rated YouTube application on Windows Phone. Metrotube made it into the top 10 paid apps on the US Marketplace.  Since re-launching as a free app, Metrotube is now ranked in the top 1% out of all apps on the marketplace and is among the top 50 ‘best rated’ apps. We are still a small, self-funded, 2 man start-up with crazy goals and big dreams.  I design and Mike codes all of our applications. Although we’ve only recently started Lazyworm Apps, Mike and I have been working on software projects together ever since we were classmates at Canterbury University over 7 years ago. 

Finally, we’re both a little lazy or at least can be perceived that way due to our inability to wake up before noon.

How did the idea for Tweetro come about?

At the time, our primary goal was to show the world that we were capable of delivering world-class ‘Metro-Style’ applications.  We felt that the quickest way to achieve this would be to deliver an exceptional experience for a service that would be used by as many people as possible. On Windows Phone, we saw the lack of a native YouTube app as an opportunity.  With Windows 8, we felt that a Twitter application would cater to a wider audience and seeing there wasn’t one on ‘Consumer Preview’ we figured we’d give it a go.

When you first heard about Windows 8 and the Windows Store, what was your first reaction?

One of relief and excitement.  Relief in the sense that we had made the right decision to jump onto Windows Phone early.  We knew that developing for the Windows Store would simply be an extension of what we’d been doing for the past year or so and were excited that we’d be able to get the jump on everyone else once again on a platform that had far more potential.  Developing consumer software for Windows Phone was fun but it certainly wasn’t profitable, the introduction of Windows 8 coupled with the Windows Store had the potential to change all that.

How hard was it to develop Tweetro with Windows 8's "Modern" UI as well as Windows RT?

As I mentioned earlier, our experience building WPF and then Windows Phone applications meant we already had a very solid understanding of Silverlight and the tools associated with it. I was also fortunate enough to have been mentored by Bryan Agnetta and Rhon Manlapaz, two senior UX designers on the Windows Phone design team who helped me understand what it meant to design an exceptional ‘Modern UI’. So from a technical point of view, it was really quite easy.

Having said that, the real challenge came in the form of trying to deliver a Twitter app that stayed true to the Windows 8 ‘no compromise’ experience.  It was an extremely complex design problem to try and cater for touch, mouse and keyboard, large screens, small screens and everything in between.  It literally took us months and a ton of user feedback to come up with the design you see today.

Overall, are there any tricks to making a touch screen based Windows 8 app or game compared to making a regular PC app?

As I mentioned above, I don’t think there are too many ‘technical’ difficulties associated with developing touch screen based Windows 8 apps compared to say regular PC apps.  The real complexities arise in the design problems that these type of apps pose and the fact that they must cater to a vast array of use cases.  The ‘Hybrid’ nature of Windows 8 applications are unlike any we’ve ever seen before as traditionally, applications have either been primarily touch or mouse and keyboard experiences.

What's the reaction been like to Tweetro so far?

We’ve been extremely humbled by everyone’s support.  We frequently receive emails and tweets of support and the bulk of our user reviews have been hugely positive. People really seem to love the experience that we have come up with and it’s a real shame that Twitter won’t let everyone experience it.

When you reached that 100,000 user cap, did you think that Twitter would give Tweetro an extension?

For the most part, Twitter has made their intentions fairly clear so we had a good idea what their general stance was towards third party apps.  Having said that, we genuinely believed that we had a solid case for exemption considering Twitter is yet to support Windows 8.

How do you feel about Twitter's restrictions on third party apps now that you have encountered them yourselves?

I can understand that they need to exercise some control, and I have no issue with that. My main gripe is the fact that we were prepared to bend over backwards for them… we’d gladly display their ads, we’d tweak our design, we’d be more than happy to work with them to meet their requirements.  I even suggested that we’d be happy to revoke all the extra tokens they gave us in the event that they released an official app on Windows 8.  Despite my best efforts, all I got was a bunt reply. I never expected Twitter to go this far considering the history they have had with third party developers. I feel we’re being disrespected.

You plan to release a paid version of Tweetro soon. What features will you add to the paid version?

The paid app will see some more polish, there are a few commonly requested features that we’d like to get in such as a nicer, more efficient methods of navigation and perhaps the ability to customize the main hub experience among a few other things.  Essentially, we won’t be adding too many new features at this stage however we will definitely continue to closely listen to our customers improve on the app.

Do you have any plans to develop more Windows 8 apps?

Absolutely, we have already started porting Metrotube to Windows 8. Having said that, we most definitely won't be building anymore third party clients! We’ve experienced our fair share of nightmares for the past two years and are tired of playing ‘David vs Goliath’. We will deliver more consumer based apps, however they will be services that we have full control over. We are now also offering design and development services for top brands wanting a presence on the platform.  We already have a few things in the pipe so things are very much full steam ahead.

How do you feel about some of the comments made by other developers that feel that the Windows Store and Windows 8 are making the PC more of a closed system?

For developers who are confident in their abilities to deliver great products, I believe the store is a huge step forward. Sure, the Windows Store brings some constraints however the way I see things is that the positives far outweigh the negatives.  Having a method of selling your applications without needing to worry about managing transactions and optimizing your shopping cart is a huge benefit.  I know first-hand how much effort goes into maintaining one and I can tell you, I’m more than happy to give Microsoft their cut and have them deal with it.

The user driven nature of the Store also means that quality applications will rise to the top and the rubbish will quickly get exposed for what it is. Developers will have more time and incentive to build great software.  Surely that’s a good thing.

Finally, is there anything else you wish to say about Windows 8 and the future of Tweetro?

I am genuinely excited about the opportunity that Windows 8 brings.  I don’t agree with all of the design decisions that Microsoft has made and I do feel the OS isn’t exactly perfect however I absolutely believe that they are headed in the right direction. Using a Windows 8 touch capable device reminds me of how I felt after experiencing the first generation iPhone. Despite the fact that the iPhone was made from glass, had a battery life that couldn’t get me through the day and missed features such as copy, paste and forward… it was a glimpse into the future.

With regards to Tweetro, we’d love nothing more than to continue trying to deliver the best possible Twitter experience on Windows 8.  This is why we’ve opted to re-launch as a paid app as we wouldn’t be able to continue unless we’re able to justify our development costs.  We hope that people understand our situation and are willing to continue showing us their support. We will be making some announcements in the weeks to come regarding our pricing model and launch dates but we’re aiming to have it available very soon.  For those who wish to follow our progress we’ll be posting up regular updates on our social media pages like Facebook and Twitter.

We would like to thank Atta for answering our questions!

Image via Lazyworm Applications

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