Like the best of frenemies, Twitter and Facebook like to steal tricks from one another all the time. Users like hashtags and trending topics? Don't mind if I do, Twitter! Mom is used to Facebook's friendly profile layout? Let's borrow heavily from that.
On Thursday, Twitter announced it is cribbing a Facebook feature (not in those words) that, as early as last year, was touted as a powerful but secret revenue driver: App distribution through the News Feed.
Soon, marketers will be able to advertise their mobile software directly in Twitter's stream, providing a direct portal to easy and painless downloads. "For marketers, this means a rich, native ad unit that combines the best of Twitter Cards and Promoted Tweets," writes Twitter in a blog post. "Users can easily install and engage with apps, directly from the Twitter timeline."
The initiative is powered by the MoPub Marketplace, an in-app ad distribution service Twitter purchased last October. Twitter claims advertisers will have the potential to reach more than 1 billion unique devices through a variety of other applications. (That figure includes phones that don't necessarily have Twitter installed; Twitter as it stands has about 241 million monthly users.)
Spotify and HotelTonight are among the initial partners, as the new initiative is currently being tested in beta. Although it's unclear how big of a cut Twitter plans on taking, mobile apps present a major—and potentially very lucrative—new business opportunity for Twitter, especially since the likes of Google and Apple are terrible at marketing third-party apps to download.
All told, the social network Borrow Wars are far from over.