The Twittersphere has been abuzz in recent weeks with talk of Plurk, a similar microblogging service. Unlike other microblog applications, Plurk seems to be aimed at directly competing with Twitter, notably given the same limit on the number of characters (140) that can be used in a single post.
A number of blogs have already commented on the differences. Stan Schroeder on Mashable says he likes Plurk better than Twitter and opines, “Plurk’s timeline is a welcome change from the standard Twitter look.” The best head-to-head comparison is on Chris Thompson’s blog, Plurk & Twitter: Two Very Different Communities.
But is one better than the other? Reliability questions aside, some users like the more feature-rich Plurk, whereas others prefer Twitter’s minimalist approach.
That said, Twitter’s open API has resulted in a burgeoning of other applications that extend its functionality hence usefulness. Will developers be as quick to create apps for Plurk? According to a Mashable report by Alana Taylor, Plurk was due to release its API yesterday. (I couldn’t find any reports confirming this.) We’ll soon see if the release inspires and motivates the developer community.
But will more Plurk apps be enough? Maybe. But that’s besides the point. From what I see, Plurk appeals to a quite different demographic. Despite the title of his post, Thompson does not examine the differences between the two services’ communities. However, commentators are suggesting what these differences might be.
In one of his Tweets, Robert Scoble, one of Twitter’s best known users, commented that the “UI looks like it’s for 14-year-old girls into Neopets,” plus a number of other negative comments (see below). While Scoble’s rancor is a somewhat unkind, Plurk’s color coded posts, cute cartoons, emoticons and “karma value” will undoubtedly create a loyal following. Certainly, some Twitterers find Plurk appealing (see second list below for sample of positive Tweets about Plurk).
The point here is that Twitter and Plurk differ enough that their user demographic will parse out fairly distinctly. What the characteristics of the two demographics will be is hard to say at this early stage, but marketers are sure to take a keen interest.
I’ve commented before on Twitter as a socio-psychological phenomenon, and hence its huge importance for individuals and society as a whole. It’s not surprising similar services should emerge. Just as search functionality was an area for exploration and experimentation until Google dominated the market (although some competition remains), so microblogging is vibrant with innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. Will Twitter be the Google of microblogging? They started well with a great interface, but have opened the door to competition by their poor reliability. No doubt then, we can expect to see more Twitter- and Plurk-like applications in the coming months.
Scoble rants about Plurk
- “Plurk? lots of people are there, but not sure of their coolness level.” 03:12 PM June 07, 2008
- “I hate the UI. It is no Twitter, that’s for sure. I will probably not spend much time on Plurk.” 07:20 AM June 05, 2008
- “…about Plurk’s UI. It’s not good, but on the other hand, it’s different from Twitter so got attention.” 05:18 AM June 04, 2008
- “I follow early adopters… even if they go to services I really hate the design of, like Plurk.” 05:11 AM June 04, 2008
- “It has a seriously goofy UI and name…” 11:59 PM June 03, 2008
- “I hate Plurk. UI looks like it’s for 14-year-old girls into Neopets. I’m sure it’ll appeal to some.” 11:51 AM June 03, 2008
Sample of positive Tweets (on Twitter) about Plurk (from Summize, June 12)
- P0tat0head: “i’m chatting with @nyoshida4677 on plurk instead of aim”
- stejules: “…I see ppl talking on plurk talking who never talk on twitter or very less, very interesting”
- oooky: “I’m only going to be on Plurk from now.”
- zzap: “I’ve been caught up in Plurk lots. Almost forget about Twitter.”
- alousionist: “i’m plurking”
- rcassie95: “I’m most likely done with Twitter. Visit me at Plurk!”
- grumblemouse: “…seems like people are into Plurk”
- hellover: “plurkin´ every day”
- Hawklu: “Finding myself using Plurk more than Twitter. Perhaps it is the fact you can embed pictures and videos.”