Twitter's oft-neglected app for Mac got a much-needed update today, adding support for inline GIFs, videos, quote-tweets, and other features that mobile users have had for ages. But while many users were glad to see the app getting attention, others criticized it for performance issues: laggy scrolling, repeating old notifications, and login issues. If the app doesn't appear to be totally in harmony with Twitter's efforts on mobile apps, here's one possible reason: Twitter didn't build it.
Development of the Mac app was outsourced to a third-party developer, said Jonathan Wight, a former Twitter employee, in a tweet. The Verge confirmed that the app's development was outsourced with other people familiar with the matter. One of those people said the developer is Black Pixel, a well-regarded digital studio based in Seattle. Black Pixel's other clients have included ESPN, Starbucks, and The New York Times, according to its website.
As a matter of pride, companies rarely advertise outsourcing
There's nothing scandalous about a software company employing a third-party developer to do work on its behalf, although as a matter of pride the larger company rarely advertises it. Slack, arguably the breakout app of the year, was initially designed by a third-party firm. (Which probably took a bit too much credit for its success.) And at least there is now a team working on Twitter's Mac app — it previously was the responsibility of a single person, sources tell The Verge.
But Twitter outsourcing its Mac app is still suggestive in a few ways. It says the desktop is not a priority for the company — which is fine! (Mobile is the future, etc.) It hints at the strain that Twitter faces as it attempts to build consistent, high-quality apps across many different platforms at once. And given Twitter's recent layoffs, which I'm told delivered a critical hit to teams that support the service's infrastructure, that strain is probably only increasing. I'd also love to know the terms of the contract — is Black Pixel done? Are they going to deliver an update once a quarter?
Twitter and Black Pixel did not immediately respond to requests for comment.