I recently got an email newsletter from Seesmic which touted their new desktop app as the next big thing. I downloaded it from curiosity and while it’s definitely a marked improvement on the first version, I don’t find it to be useful enough to encourage me to stop using the Twitter website as my primary way of using the service on my computer. I make use of lists and saved searches on Twitter, but I don’t really want to be bombarded with all of these in separate columns in one of these apps at once.
I also don’t think that it’s better than TweetDeck, its primary competition in the desktop client space. They offer similar features, but in the end, I think TweetDeck’s interface is easier to understand and use. While they both offer tools for power users like integrated support for a variety of add-ons for twitter and other services, Seesmic offers more optional functionality for serious users in the form of plug-ins. TweetDeck strictly controls the entire experience, which makes it feel more sturdy at the expense of more options for customization. At the moment though, it doesn’t appear to make much difference as Seesmic have tight control over what plug-ins are allowed anyway.
Both apps aren’t native to either OS in a traditional sense. Instead, they run on top of other platforms within the OS. TweetDeck runs on Adobe AIR, and Seesmic on Microsoft Silverlight. Both of these are strange choices, especially because neither are tremendously popular. Neither really hurt the apps, but updating Adobe AIR can be a little confusing at times especially when you have to update TweetDeck simultaneously.
Seesmic also has a strange design choice where it always opens in a window at a specific size, even if you previously maximised the window during its last session. It makes more sense to me with an app like this to allow the maximum room possible to fit more columns on the screen, so I don’t understand why they made it like this.
In the end, both apps are similar and both will do what power users are looking for with multiple columns allowing you to organise your twitter lists and saved searches in a way that Twitter.com doesn’t offer.
I just feel that the vast majority of users will be perfectly fine with just the standard Twitter site in their browser, and only dedicated twitter addicts need apply for these desktop apps. As far as mobile devices go, it’s a different story. Because the mobile web still is a long way from the level of interaction that mobile apps provide, there’s no real reason to not use them. Not only are they more convenient, faster and better looking than mobile sites, but you’re more likely to want to share media such as photos and videos when you’re using your mobile device, which most likely has a camera for both stills and video built in. Other features like location sharing are also more useful in phones, and the major apps support all of these functions and are free.
The future of desktop computing is moving more and more towards the browser and away from downloadable applications. The opposite is true in the mobile space, and therefore it’s hard to recommend them to people who won’t make considerable use of the multi-column view.
It will be interesting to see what happens in the future with regards to Twitter on the desktop. The official site may see considerable improvements, although I personally hope they keep it simple. With the increasing adoption of HTML 5, we could see desktop quality web-apps that require no download. I’m looking forward to seeing what developers come up with next and how things evolve.