Twitter lists and the App Store

Twitter's lists are a fascinating new feature, and people are using them in a bewildering variety of ways. I think one of the most unexpected effects they've had, though, has been the exposure of yet another problem with Apple's App Store approval process: it's just not agile enough. Say I was selling a Twitter client on the App Store. In an ideal world (read: the web), the primary bottleneck to delivering a new version of the product is the development time – Twitter releases lists, I burn the midnight oil a bit to incorporate them into my app, and I'm done. When you're developing for the iPhone, however, the main bottleneck isn't the development time, but the approval process. Every update to the core functionality of the application has go through the approval queue just like a new application, which means that it can be weeks or months before it gets onto your customers' phones. (Or never, as has been the case with a recently rejected app update.) Similarly, entirely new applications face the same problem. Fred Wilson just posted a Twitter list-powered application idea, but there's no way a native app could be released to the public quickly to take advantage of it. This has always been something of a problem for desktop development, of course – particularly before online patch distribution – but the iPhone has taken it to new heights. Web clients were able to add support for lists as quickly as they could push their developers, but native applications are left to lose their audience until Apple deigns to approve their updates. I'm surprised that the effect isn't greater, actually, since the web-based Twitter clients should be promoting the heck out of mobile-optimized views of their sites with list functionality. Scoble's favored way of interacting with Twitter is a web-based clientin part because of its list support (see the last paragraph). This is just one more problem with the App Store approval process, but it has the potential to be one of the most serious. As more and more mobile applications rely on web services for their functionality, the mismatch in time-to-market between the moderated App Store market and the quick-as-you-can web ecosystem will cause more (and more serious) problems.