Twitter for iPhone 4.0 was released to the general public on Thursday to widely mixed reviews. Some hailed it for its simplicity and others felt betrayed by the app for not sticking to its roots.
What were Twitter for iPhone's roots? It started with a company called Atebits, run by Loren Brichter.
Released: November 18, 2008 | $2.99
Courtesy of smokingapples.com
The first version of Tweetie emerged when there was a small field of Twitter clients for the iPhone. The most popular app at the time was Twitterrific. Tweetie set itself apart with a few game-changing features.
Chief among them: endless scrolling to load more tweets. Yes, it seems trivial now, but in the nascent days of application development for the iPhone this feature was killer.
One of the big knocks against Tweetie was its SMS-style interface.
Tweetie 1.1: To tweet a link
Released: December 15, 2008 | Price: $2.99, free upgrade from previous versions
Tweetie 1.1 added a URL scheme that allowed users to take a URL from Safari and paste it into a Tweet sheet. By adding "tweetie:" at the front of a URL, the application would open with the URL pre-populated. This was especially important, because iOS did not support copy and paste at the time.
Tweetie 1.2: Swipe to reply
Released: February 16, 2009 | Price: $2.99, free upgrade from previous versions
The killer feature of Tweetie was finally here. No, I'm not talking about PEE. Swipe to reply allowed users to reply directly from the app's timeline view. When the user swiped, they could visit the profile directly, favorite and reply to the tweet.
The visual design of the app had also gone through a visual overhaul, opting for a dense view.
Tweetie 1.3: Left off the store, then left in the dark
Released: March 10, 2009 | Price: $2.99, free upgrade from previous versions
Courtesy of andysreviews.wordpress.com Tweetie 1.3 was held up in App Store hell. It was rejected because a trending topic displayed inside the app had featured a curse word. Brichter took to Twitter to complain:
You all ready to be pissed?Tweetie 1.3 rejected.Because there's an offensive word in the TRENDS - http://twitpic.com/1zbcs— Loren Brichter (@atebits) March 10, 2009
Not long after, Tweetie 1.3 hit the App Store and brought along with it a whole bunch of bug fixes and new features. App users long had clamored for additional themes and Tweetie 1.3 delivered a dark theme.
Tweetie 2: Pull to refresh
Released: October 9, 2009 | Price: $2.99, new and existing users
Just 11 months after Tweetie first hit the App Store, it was time for a rebuilt, completely new version of the app to hit. With that, came a minor backlash from Tweetie 1 buyers. Brichter believed that Tweetie 2.0 was enough of a revamp of the app that it warranted a whole new purchase.
Upgraded version of the same product with the same name and they expect me to pay full price?Unbelievable.Never buying another 96 Jetta.— Merlin Mann (@hotdogsladies) September 30, 2009
That didn't stop Tweetie 2.0 from being a stellar app. From my review, regarding the best new feature at the time:
Not only that, but there’s a great new change for reloading your Twitter. No longer do you have to scroll up, click the refresh button and wait for updates. Instead, just scroll up by gesturing down and hold it until you get feedback that it is reloading.
Pull to refresh became one of the most widely adopted metaphors among apps that work with timeline views. My iPhone currently has 15 apps with the feature. Facebook's iPhone app required users to shake the phone in order to reload the view. Now, like dozens of other apps, it conforms to the UI metaphor Brichter invented.
The app also aggressively used caching, which meant that the app remembered where the user left off, making up for the lack of a dedicated multitasking feature on iOS.
Tweetie 2.1: Project retweet, location-based tweeting, gap detection
Released: November 29, 2009 | Price: $2.99, free upgrade from previous versions of Tweetie 2
Back in the old days of Twitter, retweet didn't exist. Well, it existed as a form of syntax inside of a tweet. Now, it's a feature widely used. Tweetie 2.1 was one of the first iPhone apps that took advantage of the new format.
It also had location support, which let users search nearby tweets. Add on Twitter lists, which had just been introduced to organizes different groups of users.
Remember when Tweetie 1.0 was one of the first to feature endless scrolling? Tweetie 2.1 took it one step further with gap detection. When you reopen the app after quite some time away, Tweetie 2.1 recognized a gap between tweets. By clicking on the gap, it populated the area with the tweets it missed.
Tweetie 2.1.1: Foursquare support
Released: March 12, 2010 | Price: $2.99, free upgrade from previous versions of Tweetie 2
Tweetie 2.1.1 was a minor update, but it's worth noting, because it's the last major feature upgrade. It added Foursquare support, which showed place information when a user posted from Foursquare.
Less than a month later, Twitter announced that it had acquired Atebits' Tweetie and that Loren Brichter would join the team at Twitter.
Tweetie 2.1.2: The last version
Released: April 28, 2010 | Price: $2.99, free upgrade from previous versions of Tweetie 2
Courtesy of TheNextWeb
With Tweetie joining the Twitter flock, there was one last upgrade to do. And it was in the form of a game. It teased the new version of Twitter, which would be made free for all users.
Twitter for iPhone 3.0
Released: May 18, 2010 | Price: Free
Courtesy of MacStories.net
Twitter for iPhone continued the impeccable design of Tweetie for iPhone. It reorganized search, added signup options right inside of the app and let users without an account browse Twitter.
What went missing from the app? URL shortening from services like bit.ly. Twitter began using its t.co shortener, instead.
Twitter for iPhone 3.2: Push notifications
Released: November 16, 2010 | Free
Courtesy of Mashable
Before push notifications made it to Twitter for iPhone, users turned to Boxcar, which was a handy solution for Twitter developers who couldn't build the infrastructure to support push notifications. Now, however, Twitter itself could support it for notifications about mentions and direct messages.
Twitter for iPhone 3.3: #Quickbar, the #Dickbar
Released: March 3, 2011 | Price: Free
Courtesy of Marco Arment
Quickbar. Oh, Quickbar. This "revolutionary" new feature lasted less than a month after it was released. The feature put trends (including promoted trends) at the top of the timeline and annoyed users to no end. It was quickly dubbed the "dickbar" by tech pundits, because of its lack of value to the user. Some upgrades lessened the "impact" of the bar, but by version 3.3.3, it was gone for good.
Twitter for iPhone 3.5: iOS 5, Twitter photo uploads
Released: October 11, 2011 | Price: Free
Twitter for iPhone 3.5 took advantage of Twitter's deep integration with iOS 5. It could automatically access the user's Twitter account without having to ask for login credentials, provided the user input them in the Settings app.
It was the last major Twitter for iPhone release Brichter was a part of:
Today was my last day at Twitter. Taking some time to figure out what’s next. Really proud of the way the team has grown.— Loren Brichter (@lorenb) November4, 2011
Twitter for iPhone 4: A whole new look
Released: December 8, 2011 | Price: Free
Twitter for iPhone 4.0 is a significant departure from previous versions of Twitter and Tweetie. Some of the design elements remain, particularly the blue indicators for new tweets and the pull-to-refresh feature. Everything else has undergone a significant refresh.
It's unclear whether development of version 4 is the reason why Brichter left the company, but it has been largely panned in the tech press, while some praise it for its simplicity:
I think now that 4.0 is out I can stop calling Twitter for iOS "Tweetie".— Paul Haddad (@tapbot_paul) December8, 2011
Twitter for iPhone 4.0 puts search and saved searches in separate tabs. Watch, as a .5 upgrade makes usability plummet! #letsfly— Jeremy Stanley (@JeremyDStanley) December8, 2011
I'm convinced the new Twitter app design is built for those who don't really "use" Twitter. Lists are buried, favorites buried, etc.— Clayton Morris (@ClaytonMorris) December9, 2011
The new Twitter is good for the ecosystem. It's got a real simple feature set for new users and advanced users will go elsewhere. #WinWin— Paul Haddad (@tapbot_paul) December8, 2011
Just me or is the new Twitter iPhone app a total turd, layout-wise? DM's buried a level under "Me" tab? Multiple accounts under "Me"?— John Gruber (@gruber) December8, 2011
Twitter for iPhone has had a long history and with the iterative nature of the company, it's doubtful that it will rest on its laurels and be ignorant of user feedback. With Brichter missing, those looking for the Tweetie experience will probably have to go elsewhere.
Let me know what you think of this post, tweet @JeremyDStanley.