I’ve really been bitten by the Facebook/Twitter/Kyte/Jaiku bug. Stephanie Booth, everyone’s favorite Swiss blogger, met me tonight at the Jaiku party (that’s Jaiku’s PR guy, Neil Vineberg holding the Jaiku poster) and said I had to add Dopplr to my bag of tricks (it keeps track of where you, and your friends, are). Forget Dopplr right now, because most of you haven’t yet experienced many of these five services that help you share your presence and other things about what you’re doing, or what you’re thinking about with other people.
Why am I using these services nearly every hour of my waking life? Because they are being talked about and I want to learn what is making people so passionate — nearly everyone in the industry I meet either loves these things or despises them. It seems that every conversation lately is about one of these five services and how they’re potentially changing how we communicate with each other. Translation: there’s a lot of hype here and we’re trying to figure out what they are good for and whether the hype is justified. In my opinion: it is.
I’m not sure what we should call this group of apps. Presence updaters? Microbloggers? Social networkers?
I totally grok why Facebook is quickly becoming the most important social network and presence updater on the Web. If you get added to my Facebook Friends list (it’s easy, just ask) you’ll see that it aggregates a whole bunch of things onto one page. My Kyte videos are there. My Twitter tweets are there. My shared items, er link blog, from Google Reader is there. And a lot more. Plus you can visit any one of my nearly 500 friends and see all their stuff.
So, let’s quickly look at pros and cons of each of these services. First, read Dare Obasanjo’s post on why Facebook is bigger than Blogging to give you a look at his opinion of why these things are getting more attention lately than blogging is.
Pros of Twitter: It’s the lightest weight of all five of these services. It has the fewest features, but that’s what I like about it. It just provides a constant stream of updates from my friends. I use an app called Twitterrific on my Mac. It’s like an IM service there. I also use Twitter’s Mobile app on my phone to enter Twitter posts (we call them “Tweets”) from the road. Twitter does one thing and one thing well: let me enter messages from IM clients, the Web, a mobile app on my phone, or from other applications via its API and it brings me back my friends’ Tweets efficiently and quickly. Its API brings me tons of apps like my favorite TwitterVision (putting that on screen during conferences always gets ooohhhs and aaaahhhhhs — most people in the world don’t have any clue that something like Twitter exists). So far Twitter has far superior contact handling to its closest competitor, Jaiku, too. That’s one reason why I haven’t switched over to Jaiku yet. I can’t even see if someone has added me as a contact on Jaiku and I can’t add everyone who has added me into my own contact list (something I CAN do on Twitter).
Cons of Twitter: Because it only lets you do one thing — write 140-characters — Twitter gets a LOT of noise. At least it’s noise to someone who looks at my Twitter for the first time. For instance, right now Christian Burns wrote “No really, my arm is killing me.” Now that might seem like noise to someone who doesn’t know Christian. And it is. But, I like hearing such things from my friends. Gives me something to talk about when we get together next time. “How’s that arm doing, Christian?” tells him that I care about him and was paying attention to his Tweets. But it does get old, particularly if you’re like me and you added way too many people into your Twitter contact list. The Twitter service has also been pretty slow. It still takes WAY too long for the Twitter Web site to load up. It’s probably 100 times slower, on average, than a Google page. They need to improve that A LOT to get to Facebook levels. So far it looks like there’s a few hundred thousand people on Twitter. That’s about 10 times as many as Jaiku, but a small pimple on the 25 million that are on Facebook (and Facebook has far less than MySpace).
Pros: Shows replies to a specific message. I like that sometimes, other times it adds more complexity than Twitter. I like the speed of Jaiku better than Twitter, particularly on the Web app. Part of that might be that I have 4,000+ contacts on Twitter, which is probably slowing down my page load times. The design of Jaiku is nicer than Twitter, too, overall. The mobile app has more features. For instance, if you meet another Jaiku user who has Bluetooth enabled phone it’ll tell you there’s someone new in your vicinity. Jaiku also aggregates messages and RSS feeds and photos from other services. For instance, if you visit my Jaiku page you’ll see my Twitters, my Flickr photos, my Google Reader’s shared items, my blog posts, and more. Adds more complexity than Twitter, but makes it a more useful service too. Particularly for someone who wants a one-page place to show their family everything they are up to.
Cons: the mobile app needs some power-management work. When I use it on my Nokia the battery gets sucked in a few hours (Kyte’s app has the same problem) so I have to be careful to only use the Jaiku mobile app when I have plenty of power, or access to my charger. They say they are working on this. Jaiku’s contact manager needs a lot of work, too. They say that’s on the roadmap, but right now Twitter is way ahead. I also like the Twitter Facebook application better than the Jaiku one.
Pros: Lets me use video, photos, and chat to communicate with all of you. Last night I put up a little video that I filmed with Patrick using nothing but the camera in my Macintosh. Very fast (the fastest way to get video up on the Internet that I know of) and there was an instant audience there to talk about it. Plus, you see the same video no matter where you see my Kyte. Have Kyte’s mobile phone app? You see it there. You’ll also see the exact same thing at the same time on Facebook. Or on my blog (if WordPress let me put the widget here).
Cons: Isn’t a microblogging service like Twitter or Jaiku. So, if all you want to do is tell your friends you had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, you probably will be better off with one of those two services. The UI is a bit confusing. Once you see it used you realize it’s pretty easy, but quick, sign in and figure out how to open a channel and upload a video. It needs too much handholding.
Pros: has the “updatedness” of Twitter and Jaiku but has a ton of other stuff too. Much better contact management than others. The only service that lets third party developers plug in applications. The best “home page” of the group (aka your profile page). Has a Twitter-like feature too, but that’s not its strength.
Cons: if all you want is a way to tell your friends what you’re up to without all the extras Twitter is better for you. I use both. Adding everyone who is following you as a friend is easier on Twitter (much easier, actually).
Come back on Monday cause I have a lot more to say about Plaxo after they come out with their new stuff.
Conclusions: if you held a gun to my head and made me choose only one of these services I’d pick Facebook. Especially if I already didn’t have a blog as a platform to communicate with other people. But, there’s a lot of value in all of these, particularly in Kyte.tv because it lets me add video and chat to Facebook and in Twitter, because I have a lightweight way to communicate with other people. I like all of these services, though, for different reasons and will continue using them all.
What’s missing from this list? LinkedIn is the biggest. I have to add that to my toolbag. I also have to try Dopplr. The Radar.net folks showed me a new client they are working on that I’ll have to try out too.
What about you? What’s keeping you from joining in on these services? Do you see any business uses? (I do, will try to write up my thoughts on those).