Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Web Based Alternatives to Twitter

As many of you on Twitter probably already know, Twitter recently forced its new interface (dubbed "New New Twitter" by us long time users) on its users. Sadly, this interface removed much of the functionality of older interfaces. The tweet box is much too small and is set on the left side bar rather than at the top. Worse yet, one's mentions, retweets, and follows are now all combined. Needless to say, if one gets very many retweets and mentions in a day, this can get very confusing very quickly.

This has forced many long time Twitter users to find other Twitter applications to use than Twitter itself. Now there are many Twitter applications out there for phones, as well as several for home computers. Unfortunately, if you are like me and prefer to use a web based application for a computer rather than a separate programme, one's choices narrow considerably. There have been three web based Twitter applications I have used. Each has their strengths and weaknesses and I rather suspect that almost everyone might find them better than Twitter's current interface.

HootSuite is what I am currently using instead of Twitter. Strictly speaking, HootSuite isn't simply a Twitter client. Instead it is a social media publishing dashboard that can publish to Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Wordpress as well as Twitter. I started using HootSuite to schedule tweets when I was away from my computer. Even then, when I was still using the Twitter interface, I liked HootSuite's interface. The nice thing about HootSuite is that you can create separate tabs (they call them "streams") for your Twitter feed, your mentions, tweets you have retweeted, your tweets that have been retweeted, direct messages, and so on. What is more, one can adjust the size of the various windows containing one's streams to whatever size one wants.

Given that I currently use HootSuite instead of New New Twitter, I obviously think it is superior to Twitter's new interface. The fact that one can view his or her retweets separate from one's mentions alone makes it better than the current Twitter interface in my mind. What is more, HootSuite's tweet box is bigger than that of the current Twitter interface and located conveniently at the top of the page. Now there are some downsides to HootSuite. If you're one of those who likes to see what is trending (it was never a big deal for me), then you have to click on the cross hairs by the search box. HootSuite also refreshes less frequently than other Twitter clients. Still, it is far superior to what Twitter has tried to pass off as an interface of late.

Another Twitter client I have used is Seesmic. Like Hoot Suite, Seesmic is actually a publisher for social media. In addition to Twitter, it can handle Facebook and LinkedIn. And like HootSuite, Seemsic is much better than New New Twitter. Seesmic is capable of displaying one's various streams in individual windows, so that one can have windows for his or her twitter stream, retweets, mentions, and so on. Like HootSuite, then, Seesmic has the advantage of displaying one's mentions and retweets separately from each other. One big advantage Seesmic has is a long tweet box at the very top of the page. Of the various clients out there, it is probably the easiest to compose tweets in. If you are one of those who likes to keep track of what's trending, trends are conveniently located on Seesmic's left sidebar.  As to Seesmic's updating, it is nearly the same as that of Twitter.

Now there are some downsides to Seesmic. The biggest is that one cannot adjust the size of the windows. This can make reading tweets a bit hard if your eyes are not particularly good. Another problem I have noticed is that, even though there is a "remember me" box to click on the log in, I have to log into Seesmic between sessions.

The third web based Twitter application I have used is Echofon. Now Echofon has one serious disadvantage as a web based app--namely it is only available for Firefox. Now this doesn't bother me, as Firefox is my browser of choice. That having been said, if one prefers Internet Explorer or Chrome for whatever reason, he or she simply isn't going to be able to use the web based version of Echofon.

Anyhow, Echofon is installed as an add on to Firefox and displays as a panel in one's browser. One can vary the size of the panel or close it entirely. Echofon is very easy to use an refreshes as swiftly as Twitter's interface does. What is more, it alerts you any time you get a direct message or a mention. The tweet box is also conveniently located at the bottom of the panel and is decently sized. That having been said, Echofon has two big disadvantages that prevent me from using it regularly. The first is that one can display Echofon as the default panel or even in a separate window, but I have yet to figure out how to simply display it in a tab of Firefox. This is a serious drawback for we Firefox users who prefer to have all of our pages displayed in separate tabs rather than separate windows. True, one can use the panel, but that takes up a bit of space in any given window. The second drawback with Echofon is that if there is a way to view one's retweets, I have yet to find it. This pretty much keeps me from using Echofon on my computer, as I do like seeing if one of my tweets have been retweeted. Of course, if one does not mind not seeing if any of his or her tweets have been retweeted and they don't mind part of their Firefox windows being occupied by the Echofon panel, then they might well enjoy Echofon.

Regardless, all three of these Twitter clients are far better than Twitter's current interface. HootSuite and Seesmic allow one to see his or her mentions separate from their retweets, while Echofon allows one to see his or her mentions separately. All three have tweet boxes that are bigger and more conveniently located. While I have not seen any numbers confirming this, it would not surprise me given the superiority of these apps to New New Twitter that all three have seen a huge jump in usage since New New Twitter was inflicted upon Twitter users. In fact, I rather suspect both people who use Twitter from their phones and those who use it from their computer have probably deserted the new Twitter interface en masse. I rather think it would behoove them to change it as soon as possible.

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