It was recently discovered that Twitter has been actually developing a standalone messenger app for over a year, but the company decided to scrap the project this past September. The app would have launched first in emerging markets like India, but feedback from trial users “didn’t test out well.”
Twitter’s standalone messaging app was being developed by the company’s Indian Engineering center in Bengaluru. The app would have combined tweets and messages in a single user interface. Twitter would identify influencers based on topics and encourage them to create groups on the app. Users within a group will not only be able to chat with one another, but also subscribe to relevant Twitter accounts to pull in tweets right within the group’s feed.
“Twitter didn’t have that many active users in India,” one source told BuzzFeed News. “So the idea was that if enough people used the instant messaging app, we could expose a lot of people to tweets without them even going to Twitter in the first place.” The idea behind this is that users would eventually be convinced to sign up to the main Twitter service to continue following these influencers or any other accounts that they may have encountered on the messaging app.
Twitter’s app would have launched first in India, a market that is already showing a lot of growth for other instant messaging services like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. “Everyone around us was hooked to WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, and I think internally, there was some concern about how much people were engaging with those platforms versus ours. So instant messaging seemed like a natural choice to build something around,” another source said.
The same source said that the app was actually tested anonymously with college students. However, the app didn’t get good feedback which the source also cited as one of the reasons why the app was cancelled in September. Later that same month, Twitter fired 20 of its Bengaluru staff and shut down its Indian engineering center.
Twitter will be shutting down Vine soon, and it has already integrated Periscope within its own app. It looks like the company wants less apps to further focus on its business and product strategies, as pointed out by Engadget. One of the sources also claimed that Twitter was also testing a “Lite” version of its mobile app that would be akin to Facebook’s. Unfortunately, Twitter Lite never became a reality.