Fail whale no more. Some big inroads for Twitter today in its bid to make its own basic services more appealing to users than using third-party clients, and a breath of life for two other companies in the process: the microblogging site today finally unveiled its new, native image app in partnership with Photobucket; and launched a couple of new search features, including a new integration with Mozilla’s Firefox.
The photo service comes as confirmation of rumors that started to surface earlier in the week. It will give users the option of uploading photos directly from twitter.com and its native mobile apps, rather than using services like Twitpic and Yfrog, which take users away from Twitter.com and the potential network for marketing and advertising that the company is likely planning to unleash on us soon.
In launching the service, Twitter has also enabled a coup for a site that had once been a leading player in online image services but more recently laid off employees and consolidated operations. The photo sharing site Photobucket will be powering and hosting the images, as well as providing users with a link through to its own site to continue to edit and save their pictures for other uses.
What will a native Twitter image service mean longer term? It could potentially scupper business plans for those other third-party Twitter photo sharing services, but ideally it will serve as a filip for them to raise their game again with new and more innovative features. Instagram, for one, which has picked up four million users since launching seven months ago, lets users apply instant color filters to images and upload the results to a number of other sites, including its own.
Perhaps more importantly for Twitter, having a native image client paves the way for Twitter to incorporate new ways of uploading visual content to the service. There are reports that next week at the Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) WWDC, for example, that the new version of iOS will have an option to post photos taken on an iPhone or iPad directly to Twitter (similar to how these images can today be instantly sent by picture message or email). In a blog post, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey notes the company is also currently working on deals with operators to upload pictures via MMS picture messages, similar to how those using non-smartphones can currently sent tweets via text messages.
Search: The other big Twitter enhancement announced today is in the area of search. First, Twitter is rolling out a new version of its native search service, which will give users separate results for photos and videos — a template that could be expanded in future to include other categories, much like Google’s web, maps, news, videos and image search options (no coincidence there). This potentially gives Twitter a shot at being a hub for consuming information from across the rest of the web, as it has been shared on Twitter — and again will give users another reason to linger on the site rather than go elsewhere for that information.
On that note, Twitter is also adding features to third-party services that give web users an inroad to Twitter-hosted content. The first of these deals is with Mozilla, with a new add-on to the Firefox browser that lets users search on Twitter hashtags and names directly from the browser bar. For the moment, a user has to add the feature on manually, but over time this might come up as a default setting on future versions of the browser.