#NewTwitter – It’s Really Good

Digging the New Twitter, Plate 2

Since the new Twitter was launched about a week ago, I’ve been clamouring for it. The new look is a very cool change from the Twitter homepage of 4 years, since the service launched. In that time, Twitter has changed quite a lot in its purpose and in how it’s members use it, and the homepage hasn’t really adjusted in the best way to accommodate this, until now.

While this new version of the site doesn’t aim to make dedicated apps like Tweetdeck or Seesmic obsolete, it does bring a variety of useful features to everyone. These include in-line media viewing via co-operation with partner sites like twitpic, youtube and flickr, as well as easier tweeting from anywhere on the page, messaging becoming a more featured function, and of course the new two panel design and wider page.

You can open the side panel by clicking anywhere in a tweet except a link in it, or by a dedicated button to the right side. Alongside the tweet itself, it is able to display photos, videos, maps (if you geotag the post) and more. If you have no media associated with the tweet, it will automatically display things such as people or accounts mentioned, replies to the tweet, people who re-tweeted it or recent tweets by that user.

As well as this, you can also click someone’s name to open a mini-profile in the side panel which is perhaps not the most useful feature, and a bit confusing, but I may like it more as I adjust to the updated site.  This panel can sometimes cause some problems with scrolling because if you reach the bottom it will scroll the whole page down. This just takes a bit of time to get used to. Overall I really like it though.

Also new to the design is the main functions being moved to the top of the page. @mentions, retweets, saved searches and lists are all just above the timeline now which is a great improvement. The section that most benefited from the update however is the trending topics list, which used to be located at the bottom of the sidebar, far out of view for a lot of users who didn’t think to scroll all the way down and may have missed it. It’s now located just under your most recent favourited tweet in the sidebar where it’s practically impossible to miss, even with a small screen resolution.

I probably was a bit too hyped up about getting the update, so it was very tough for it to live up to my expectations but it still did. My big worry was that they would mess the whole thing up by over-complicating the site and moving away from what the original premise was. I needn’t have worried as I think they’ve done a great job of adding a more useful and modern design while hiding away a lot of the new features. A casual user can go to the new twitter and never have to deal with in-line media and profiles, and just enjoy the same experience as before, but with a nice, clean new look.

I hope future updates are also in this vein because it’s working well. Perhaps Digg should be taking notes on how to update a huge site without alienating its users, because the twitter team have done it better than probably anyone has, maybe even bettering facebook. Check it out when you get access, and if you’ve been unlucky so far, it will be released to everyone in the next week or so I believe.


Seesmic 2, Future of Desktop Twitter Apps

[ontheground for seesmic] the-seesmic-beastieb...
Image by philcampbell via Flickr

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 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.