In a move that surpised just about everyone, Twitter has sold its developer-facing suite of tools, Fabric, to Google. It will become part of Firebase. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but each member of the Fabric team is receiving offers from Google.
Late last year, pundits wondered if Twitter proper was shopping itself around, with Google being rumored as a likely home. Instead, Twitter remained independent (for now), but has nonetheless sold a major piece of itself.
Firebase was acquired by Google in late 2014, with co-founder James Tamplin saying at the time it had sold in part because “Google’s backing allows us to dramatically scale Firebase.” Fabric says it joined Google because “our missions are the same – helping mobile teams build better apps, understand their users, and grow their businesses.”
Digits, a phone number-based sign-on tool for apps in the Fabric suite, will continue to operate under Twitter during a “transition period” before becoming part of Google. MoPub, Twitter’s advertising arm for app developers, is not included in the deal.
Firebase and Fabric offered competing products, so it’ll be interesting to see how Google dovetails them into one seamless platform, and if tools like Crashlytics keep their name. In a blog post, Firebase stated: “We’ll share further details in the coming weeks after we close the deal, as we work closely together with the Fabric team to determine the most efficient ways to further combine our strengths.”
Twitter Distances Itself from Developers
At its Flight conference in 2015, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey proclaimed the company was re-dedicating itself to working with developers. It launched a #HelloWorld campaign in an attempt to engage the developer community on what it felt Twitter should do with Fabric and its other tools, including the Twitter API (which has its own interesting history with developers).
We’re pretty sure none of the #HelloWorld responses involved selling to Google. Still, the move is a good one for the developer community.
Google has a history of supporting developers and acting in their best interest with regard to its suite of tools and APIs. It also has a very good database, something Fabric doesn’t offer natively. In addition, Fabric provides out-of-the-box support for macOS and Unity, two platforms Firebase doesn’t currently support.
It remains to be seen if some Fabric kits such as Nuance, which provides a method for developers to add interactive voice to apps, remain. Some other kits (like Mapbox or Stripe) directly compete with existing Google products.
Twitter, on the other hand, seems as though it’s priming itself for an acquisition of its own. Time will tell how that pans out, but it’s clear that developer tools are not something most companies are interested in supporting. Jettisoning Fabric (and shutting Vine down) makes Twitter more attractive to potential suitors, and this merger with Firebase suggests Google isn’t interested in Twitter after all.
With regard to Twitter, the company’s overtures have panned out as a dalliance with the developer community. Whatever happens next for the company, it can never go back to being an entity that expects full-throated support from developers, not after some key missteps over the past few years. Just take a look at this representative Tweet:
— Jonathan Wight (@schwa) January 18, 2017