As is usual during the weeks before and during South by Southwest, there are a lot of product announcements.
So, it’s become a yearly rush of new feature and new company announcements. This year, not so many new companies, but plenty of new features. Over the last week plus, going into SXSW, and in its first few days, I’ve collected a bunch of topics for further thought that may turn into blog posts.
But today, one item caught my attention, and I wanted to riff on it before it went cold.
TweetDeck, the most popular Twitter client and the one I use, released a beta version (h/t Frederic Lardinois at RWW) that integrates with Facebook Connect, allowing you to view your News Feed in one of its columns. Also, you can now choose to post updates from TweetDeck to Facebook, making TweetDeck a Facebook status client.
Updates can be sent to both Twitter and Facebook, effectively removing the need for the Twitter Facebook application, and ensuring that both your networks will stay updated on your activity. He said with more than a hint of sarcasm 🙂
If you’re wondering, TweetDeck does not post updates beginning with @ to Facebook, which makes sense, since they’re out of context. It does not, however, ignore updates that contain @ after the first character though, which should be an enhancement later. Then again, Twitter doesn’t officially track replies @ you unless they begin with @, which is one reason why AIR clients and Summize (now Twitter Search) are so popular for tracking those @ replies.
This is mildly cool, if you use both services and want to broadcast to Facebook like you do to Twitter. The recent UI changes to Facebook aim to make it more like Twitter and FriendFeed, which is sure to appeal to existing users of those services; the jury is out on whether the masses on Facebook will take to the life-streaming, micro-blogging approach.
I’m guessing they will, eventually, since Facebook has so much momentum right now.
I like the implementation overall. It’s smooth and easy to use, and it fits within TweetDeck easily. My main beef is that it adds yet another column to an already real estate hungry app. I can only show four TweetDeck columns as it is, and now I have another that I might want to see competing for screen time.
I’m not sure how to solve this problem, other than with a cinema display. Christmas might have to come early.
None of this is terribly interesting to me though.
What got me about TweetDeck’s new version its potential to marginalize the networks themselves. Bear with me here.
TweetDeck’s main appeal over any other Twitter AIR client (AlertThingy, Twhirl, etc.) is its implementation of groups, something that is sorely needed for Twitter. Having groups allows you to control what you follow and to organize the chaos that Twitter can become once you follow a few hundred people (or sooner).
Twitter seems fine with allowing TweetDeck to fill this vacuum, and even though TweetDeck is the top Twitter client, it lags well behind twitter.com for overall traffic to Twitter.
Enter Facebook updates. My logical conclusion is that I should be able to add Facebook friends to my existing groups. This isn’t the case in the beta release, but image how useful that would for a person who uses both services frequently. You could focus your attention on the people who mattered most, regardless of the service they prefer to use.
For example, Paul uses Facebook more than Twitter. I rarely see his updates to Facebook because I prefer Twitter. To communicate, one of us has to use his second choice in networks. If TweetDeck supported groups across services, we could each use our first choice in networks for communicating.
TweetDeck already supports a host of Twitter features, including follows, favorites, directs and even search, which Twitter has yet to integrate into twitter.com. About the only thing you can’t do with TweetDeck is create and manage your account. Otherwise, it’s fully operational.
I seriously doubt that Facebook will expose this much functionality to apps like TweetDeck, but the more they add, the less traffic they serve directly. Less traffic means less clout with advertisers, which is not good for business.
Anyway, I’m very curious to see how this Facebook client integration progresses. Logically, it makes sense for Facebook to open up some of their data to clients, since the model has already been proven. After all, of their user population, only a small percentage will choose clients over facebook.com.
At least that’s the way it looks now. Things change quickly though. This time last week, I would have been laughed at the idea of a Facebook client.
Find the comments and share your thoughts.
Update: A day after TweetDeck’s beta, AlertThingy, another AIR app for monitoring Twitter and FriendFeed, added Facebook, Flickr and Digg contacts and custom groups to their offering. Significantly, their groups support contacts from multiple networks (h/t RWW).
I may have to go back to AlertThingy, which I tried about a year ago when they produced the first FriendFeed app. I quickly stopped using it because I just can’t keep up with FriendFeed, not anything to do with AlertThingy.