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UberTwitter BlackBerry Twitter app fiasco

UberTwitter BlackBerry Twitter app fiasco

Popular free BlackBerry Twitter application UberTwitter got an update to beta v4 yesterday. But along with a handful of new features and software enhancements, users also saw a crop of advertisements strewn throughout their Twitter streams for the first time. UberTwitter has since removed the ads, which angered many users. It serves as a cautionary tale for developers who hope to monetize their apps.

BlackBerry applications for social networking/microblogging service Twitter aren't exactly hard to come by. In the past year or so, a variety of quality Twitter apps for BlackBerry smartphones hit the Web, both free and commercial, including TweetGenius, SocialScope and UberTwitter.

The most popular BlackBerry Twitter app right now is UberTwitter, according to TwitStat, a Twitter metrics tracking service. In fact, UberTwitter beat out SocialScope and TweetGenius by a long shot, with some 1.26 percent of the total Twitter-app-user market. The app even bested longtime BlackBerry Twitter mainstay, TwitterBerry, by nearly half a percentage point.

That brings us to today's lesson: What not to do when you've got a fairly successful application in beta and you're ready to experiment with monetization methods.

This story begins just yesterday, when UberTwitter announced an upgrade to its BlackBerry application, UberTwitter beta 4. (Because UberTwitter is in "open beta," it's available to anyone who requests an invite.) The new version touts a bunch of cool new features, including like the ability to configure the app for multiple Twitter accounts, video integration via TwitVid.com, built-in bit.ly URL shortening and much more.

However, the tweaks weren't all for the better--at least from a user perspective. UberTwitter also decided to launch an advertising stream within its app. What's worse, it rolled out this change without any warning. Adding insult to injury, it didn't give users the ability to opt out, either.

As UberTwitter quickly learned through support e-mails it received, and watching angry and frustrated users vent on Twitter, this wasn't the best idea. The problem? Prior to the upgrade, users were comfortable, even happy, with UberTwitter. Naturally, they got excited in the lead up to the new version, only to be blindsided by unexpected advertisements thrown into what's usually a very private space: Their personal Twitter streams.

Shortly after releasing UberTwitter beta 4 and seeing the first wave of backlash, the company explained via Twitter that it would soon be offering both free and paid versions of the application. Only the free version would feature advertisements, the company said. The paid version is expected to sell for less than $5, though it's unclear if that cost will be for an unlimited license or a one-year subscription.

This morning, UberTwitter (wisely) decided to pull the new ads from users' Twitter streams altogether--for the time being. But the damage was done.

The competition for BlackBerry users' hearts and minds in the Twitter app game is particularly intense right now. This beta-ad incident could prove to be a significant blow for UberTwitter, especially if it loses users to competitors like Social Scope or TweetGenius as a result.

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