Twitter (news, site) headlines were hot this week with an acquisition and several new tools, such as a Follow button and a photo/video sharing feature. And while users of the platform can probably still be heard cheering, third party developers are left reaching for the Kleenex. 

Twitter's New Follow Button is a Blessing for Businesses

In a move that's reminiscent of Facebook's Open Graph Protocol, Twitter's new Follow button enables users to subscribe to Twitter feeds directly from company and individual websites:

twitter_follow.jpgTwitter Follow Button

The big bonus here, obviously, is that you don't have to be on Twitter's site to interact with it or its users. This is a significant change for businesses, as they previously had to redirect users to their respective accounts on in order to gain new followers. As marketers have struggled to get audiences to engage with their brands via social media, sending them off to other websites to do so was more than just a little antithetical.

(Our full coverage here.) 

Twitter Launches Own Photo Sharing Service

After years of leaving the photos and videos to third-party services like Twitpic, Twitter is launching its own tool. Now, photos and videos will be directly connected to tweets and viewable on without having to redirect. Twitter will also “surface the most popular videos and tweets” in a new section of the homepage.

Twitter's partner in technology is Photobucket, and pictures on Twitter will accordingly bear the tag “powered by Photobucket,” which will link to a page that allows users to further share. 

Many were surprised that third party services like Twitpic were not consulted first -- including Twitpic founder Noah Everett.

“We never heard from Twitter that they were building a photo feature,” Everett told TechCrunch. “We understand that Twitter owns and controls the platform, but a clearer roadmap from them and better communication would have been appreciated by us and all the developers. We’ve always had Twitter’s best interest in mind with building and running Twitpic, we would have hoped the same from Twitter, at least in the form of better communication.”

(Our coverage here.)

AdGrok Joins the Twitter Flock, Monetization Looms

Twitter threw down some dollars for AdGrok this week, a platform designed to help businesses manage their Google Adwords.

For AdGrok customers this means the end of the line, as the company will no longer be accepting new signups and ceased charging existing customers immediately after the news broke. As of June 30th, AdGrok servers will be officially dunzo.

The AdGrok purchase is yet another sign that Twitter is becoming a data-driven giant that no longer wishes to rely on third-party services, as well as a much more involved advertising platform.

Reactions have, of course, been mixed.

While a number of people are happy for AdGrok and excited to see what the company will bring to Twitter, others, like one commenter on AdGrok's official announcement, aren't as pleased:

Every time one of these startups leaves their customers hanging like this, it makes those customers less likely to trust the next startup that comes around. If you're shutting down, at least have some other reason than you think it is somehow a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be employed by Twitter.

(our coverage here). 

Search Enhancements

Twitter's search feature has been lacking for quite some time, but this week's updates aim to close at least part of the gap.

In addition to pulling in photos and videos, a new plug-in for the Firefox browser that allows users to search hashtags and @ mentions directly from the search window in the browser (no support for Chrome just yet). Meanwhile, “Top Tweets” are sorted by relevance, along with a drop-down menu that lets you see either all tweets or only tweets that contain links. 

While there’s no question that the new features are an improvement, there's still a lot of space to be filled before Twitter can say it has a comprehensive search function. For example, though you can search until your little heart's content, but the engine can't pull up tweets older than a week. 

For now, services like Topsy and Gnip can be used to find older tweets, but as we've seen this week, third party applications built on our 140-character loving friend might want to have a really solid plan B.