Twitter dug itself into a deeper hole with its power users last night when it axed the non-web versions of Tweetdeck. It is somehow both totally uncalled for and long overdue. Twitter purchased Tweetdeck in mid-2011, when it was easily the best mobile Twitter client and arguably the best Facebook client at the time as well. As the picture illustrates, Twitter updated Tweetdeck only once, to remove its native picture sharing service, and it has languished in the Google Play Store ever since. In that time, Twitter has moved to a newer, locked-down API and has a new official app on most platforms. However, Tweetdeck arguably still has a better interface, as well as far more features.
I cannot make sense of this. I don’t think I would be mad if they integrated Tweetdeck’s columns into the default app’s interface, because it would greatly improve tracking conversations. Twitter has list functionality, but on mobile they are buried so far down they are practically useless. And why did Twitter sit on this app for a year and a half if they were just going to shut it down? They could have updated it, or just removed Facebook from it if that was the issue. Pushing an inferior version of your own product just to get people to look at ads is not the way to win the tech crowd.
I finally uninstalled the Facebook app on my phone about two weeks ago, mostly because it sucks. I checked back a few nights ago via the browser, and I had not missed much of anything (except an old friend getting engaged – congrats!). The next logical step is to stop sharing things on Facebook. For the better part of a year, I have prided myself on doing my sharing almost exclusively through third-party avenues (because I want control over my data, and I am a social network hipster), and the only step left is to stop.
Why do I go back, even to share? Because everyone else is there. Facebook has been around for eons in Internet Time. In the beginning, it functioned more like an actual “face book”, which people did not update daily. However, it was still people you actually knew and wanted to keep up with. Those roots continue to reinforce themselves over time as you build a digital archive of yourself, but what is left is a gargantuan filter bubble. It is much harder to break out of a filter bubble of people you know IRL, which Facebook knows. That is why the point of the site was lost somewhere between the immediate, actual, meaningful connections and “Your friends like Diet Coke, you should too!” (Of course, this could all change in a week.)
The laundry list of things Facebook actually does is pretty impressive until you consider that several other places offer the same service, usually better. General status updates work very well on Twitter; if it is longer than 140 characters, get a blog. Dropbox, Flickr, and Picasa all offer picture storage and sharing, with the added bonus of export. Instant messaging can be done with GTalk, iMessage, or the mother of all internet communique: email. Link sharing and other content curation are Tumblr’s forte. Foursquare has check-ins locked down. Personal moments meant to be shared with only close friends and family can be set up easily in Path or Google+. In fact, G+ does pretty much all of this, and shares it more intuitively than Facebook.
Lifehacker beat me to it, but the way Facebook has adapted their advertising is annoying, albeit nefariously intuitive. Ads themselves are not all that bad. The service has to make money somehow. Google is basically an advertising company, but aside from the search results page it is generally unobtrusive, and the service is good enough that it warrants forgiveness. Almost all the services mentioned are ad-supported, and the alternative to that is paying your own way with something like App.net.
So, for those visiting from my Facebook link, welcome to my page. You may see it pop up occasionally on my FB feed in the future, but independence has to start somewhere. One last cleanup of various outdated likes and other personal details, and I will be on my way. This is a break, not a full-on deletion (because how else will I occasionally use Spotify?). And if they change and improve somehow, I will gladly eat these words.
I keep wrestling with when and how to leave Facebook (and actually have a long draft in progress for when I finally do). But where does one go now? What are the other options?
Well, Twitter was my first thought. But I have almost always used third-party clients to access Twitter, and they have been dicks about that lately. In fact, the developers of my favorite Twitter clients (Falcon Pro and Carbon for Android) held a G+ hangout just yesterday to discuss the token limit situation. I hardly ever tweet from the desktop, but even that is better with third-party apps like Tweetbot (I’m not counting Tweetdeck, which was awesome until Twitter bought it and then totally neglected the Android client).
Google+ is another possible outlet. It manages to have all the features of Facebook (and does a few of them better) without the squicky feeling that they will always step on my privacy. That is an implicit issue with Google, but that has always been their modus operandi: fantastic services in exchange for advertisement. However, Google+ also feels like an endpoint. It is a place where items I share can end up, but I can’t take them and move them elsewhere, like WordPress. Twitter and FB suffer from this as well (I haven’t investigated Tumblr as much, but I fear the same).
But then yesterday’s App.net news came, and it is starting to sound better and better. Smaller community, great global stream, built-in storage, developer friendly, and user-first. It hits all the right buttons. I may have to give this a try.
There will come a time when we all host our own data and are able to share it however we choose. Until then, I will continue being a social network hipster.
As an Android user, I am sick of developers picking iOS over Android as their initial mobile launch. It may be that I don’t understand the difficulty of porting between OS’es, or that about half of Android users are running a nearly 3-year-old version of it. But when something like Vine, which has the engineering power of Twitter behind it, forgoes the majority of the smartphone market by making an iOS-only application, it irks me. Remember, it was only after Instagram released on Android that it sold for $1 billion.
That is why I am starting this list. It is all the applications that I have seen or tried that don’t bother to cater to my sector of the market. I will try to update it frequently, as I find out about new ones (and there are always new ones).