Analysis and Review
Twitter’s huge success (in traffic at least) has spawned a variety of copycat microblog apps that promise to offer what Twitter can’t: reliability, varied functionality, plus other bells and whistles. Here I review the top ten microblogs that might compete effectively with Twitter, and perhaps take the lead in the longer term.
Here I define a microblog that provides a timeline of posts and/or has a limited number of characters (or restricted text field) for post entries.
|Rank||Microblog||Year’s traffic||Character limit|
The 800 pound gorilla. Twitter took microblogging into the mainstream. Provides a simple interface and allows 140 character posts. Posts from “followers” are presented in a vertical timeline. Preceding a username with @ makes that message available on the user’s time line. Private messages can be sent between users who follow each other. Messages can be saved as favorites for later reference. Updates can be sent and received via mobile devices. Background (skin) customization is simple.
Allows unlimited number of characters in posts and automatically aggregates posts from over 40 services. As with Twitter, posts from friends are presented in a vertical timeline. Allows threaded comments on individual posts. Your FriendFeed can be either public or private. Groups, called “rooms” allow sharing content on a particular subject.
Twitter with bling. Timeline is horizontal. 140 character limit on ‘plurks’. Mobile connectivity. Color-coded status options and emoticons. Stats include “karma” which increases with number of plurks, friends, responses from other plurkers and inviting friends. Private messaging available.
Specialized for mobile phone connectivity. Timeline is vertical. Icons can be added to posts. Timeline includes geo location. In beta for the loooongest time, access requires invite code. (I’ve requested several times. Can someone get me one?)
Location-based social network, allowing users to see where friends are. Tabbed navigation shows posts from users in local area. Supports image posts and shows comments on posts. When you “check in” a placemark shows where you are in the real world. Privacy settings allow limits on who sees your location. Allows finding and inviting followers from Twitter. Search available for people, places or text direct within interface.
Twitter wannabe with minimalist interface. Vertical time line. Tabbed navigation provides timeline of subscribers to your posts (followers), replies, and profile. Direct messaging via Inbox and Outbox. Search available for people or text direct within interface. Open ID and SMS support.
Sophisticated aggregator similar to FriendFeed.
Vertical time line with nested comments. No character limit on “kwips.” Followers comprise a “network.” Limited theme customization. Allows finding and inviting followers from Twitter (got a 500 error when I tried it). Search available for people or kwips text direct within interface.
Vertical time line. “Bee” icons can be used to show your mood. Allows image and video posts. Popular among European users.
Barebones microblog, with less functionality than Twitter.
Pownce would have ranked fourth in this list, but is excluded as it was bought by Six Apart and closed Dec 15, 2008. It was similar to Twitter except allowed linking of files and integration of images and video into posts, called “notes” and with no limit on the number of characters. Notes were presented as vertical timeline. Background was customizable with selection of preset themes. (Custom theme available for pro members.) Sidebar links to other online profiles. Notes made visible to public, friends only or private.
What’s not on this list? I omitted a number of popular sites such as Ping.fm and Seesmic because they are different from microblogs in significant ways. Ping.fm is a disseminator, pushing content to a variety of sources. Seesmic is a microblog that provides a function to merge video; imagine a YouTube/Twitter mashup.
Did I miss your favorite microblog? Send me a Tweet and I’ll add it in future reviews. Check out the link below for a more complete list of microblogs. (Thanks @jansegers!)