Twitter's direct messages app: Is it really coming, and why now?

Twitter is in the news again, but this time it has nothing to do with adverts, Vine or initial public offerings. Nope. This time it's about a standalone app for direct messages. The company has already made some changes to its direct message feature recently - and now it reportedly has something else in the works.

The world is abuzz at the thought of a new Twitter app that could greatly improve direct messaging, though many people are wondering if there is any credibility to the rumours. They want to know if, why and when Twitter could release a new app. If you're one of those people, you're in luck. Pocket-lint has dug deep and answered some of your questions below. Enjoy!

Is Twitter developing a direct messages app?

AllThingsD, which cited sources familiar with the matter, reported that Twitter is exploring the possibility of a separate - also called standalone - app for direct messaging. The idea is part of a larger renovation for direct messages, which already kicked off this week when Twitter rolled out the ability for users to receive direct messages from any follower.

What are direct messages?

Have you ever felt like sending a personal and private message to someone on Twitter? Direct messages - also called DMs - will let you send notes to that someone through Twitter. They're similar to regular tweets, because they're limited to 140 characters. Unlike regular tweets, the only person who can see a direct message is the recipient.

How do direct messages work?

You could previously send a direct message to a Twitter user who has followed you, but you didn't have to follow that user back. This helped prevent spamming and other unwanted messages. Celebrities, for instance, wouldn't want to get millions of direct messages from fans they haven't followed. That's why tweeting exists.

However, Twitter is now giving users the option to receive direct messages from any Twitter. That means you can now send a personal and private messages to your favorite celebrity. Of course, they must enable this new feature for it to work.

Twitter has a great step-by-step tutorial about how to actually send direct messages to Twitter users. It's particularly useful if you're having trouble navigating or understanding the mobile and web interface of Twitter.

Why would Twitter want a standalone app?

If Twitter made a standalone app for direct messages, it would presumably be similar to WhatsApp, Line, Facebook Messenger, etc. These types of messaging apps are extremely popular right now, as many of them consistently top the charts on both Apple's App Store and Google Play.

Many of the popular messaging apps in existence also offer in-app purchases for things like desired features or playful content. Twitter could implement in-app purchases, leveraging the standalone as a way to earn additional income and lure users away from competing services. This would likely only work if Twitter launched a superior product though, and it would need at least some premium-quality features free of charge.

Aside from the fact that messaging is popular, meaning Twitter would be dumb to ignore the space, there are also many complaints about direct messages on Twitter in general. The feature, lambasted by bloggers and users alike, could use a major revamp. People want to place messages in folders, prioritise them, tag them, forward them, BCC them, etc., and they want a longer character count for replies, auto answers, stickers...the list goes on.

Twitter reportedly has a renovation in store for direct messages, so it would only make sense for the company to include a standalone app in its plans and product roadmap.

Does Twitter's IPO have anything to do with this?

Twitter was previously a privately held company built on blurbs, but it had to spill the beans when filing its 800-page IPO documents. The mammoth filing contained oodles of information about Twitter's growth and its attempts to make money.

The company initially didn't even try to rake in the cash, because it instead focused on attracting new users and making the service addictive and reliable. It worked. As of June 2012, Twitter had 218 million users globally.

That said, the company doesn't have any adequate business model for earning and has suffered losses of $419 million since founding. It could only afford to exist on the backs of investors, which have given $759 million thus far. Twitter had $375 million as of June 2013, but it wants raise at least $1 billion more in its IPO.

Shareholders of public companies don't like losses, so Twitter needs to figure out methods of turning a profit. It needs to monetise. To make money, Twitter will likely get more aggressive about showing ads. It might also launch a standalone app for direct messages. Even if it doesn't include in-app purchases, Twitter could embed ads similar to how Facebook displays ads in Facebook mobile, Instagram, etc.

Therefore, yes, the IPO has likely influenced Twitter to experiment with a standalone app for direct messages.

Could a direct messages app be successful?

We don't see why not. As mentioned earlier, messaging apps are on fire right now.

Also, have you seen how successful Vine is? It's Twitter's six-second video service. Viners - the users posting videos - are like the new B-level actors of the world. They get managers, agents, endorsement deals, tours and more.

If users can earn money through an app from Twitter, why can't Twitter itself? All the company needs to do is apply the same creativity it used for Vine toward developing a killer messaging app. It will then surely have another hit, as well as loads of opportunities for making money off it.

When can we expect a direct messages app?

That's not yet clear. Rumours indicate Twitter has plans to significantly update its direct-messaging product in the near future, but those changes could just be for the built-in direct messaging feature on the web and mobile versions of Twitter.



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