TweetDeck and Seesmic Desktop: a tough choice

awesomeEver since TweetDeck appeared on the Twitter scene in 2008, I’ve been a user and a big fan. Since then, it’s been the primary way I interact with Twitter on my computer desktop. Even though I don’t use many of TweetDeck’s bells and whistles beyond its core purpose – sending and receiving messages via Twitter – it remains my third-party Twitter app of choice on the desktop.

I could almost say the same about Seesmic Desktop, a competing app for interacting with Twitter (and, like TweetDeck, much more). I tried Seesmic Desktop when it first appeared last year. I liked it although as an early beta, it couldn’t really hold a candle to TweetDeck at the time. Things have moved on substantially since then and, today, its evolution as Seesmic Desktop 2 is a genuine match in so many ways for TweetDeck.

This post isn’t a review of either or both – you can read one like this recent and good comparison review by HTMLCenter a couple of months ago (and Google for others although most results are reviews of older versions from a year ago or more). What I want to do here is highlight a couple of things about TweetDeck and Seesmic Desktop 2.

In short, I like Seesmic Desktop 2. A lot. Overall, I like it the same as I like TweetDeck. And therein lies a dilemma for both with users like me who are more interested in good and simple functionality for interacting with Twitter that you can rely on than all the bells and whistles I mentioned.

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Both apps offer a user experience that’s so similar in terms of satisfaction with that experience that choosing one over the other really is difficult.

So here are the top five things about both that I have in my mind when thinking about which one to use, comparing the versions I have installed on a  desktop computer and a laptop both running Windows 7 (TweetDeck 0.35.1 and Seesmic Desktop 2 1.0.1.1320:

  1. TweetDeck remembers its size and position on your desktop when you next load it. Seesmic Desktop 2 doesn’t so you have to resize it every time. That’s a major irritation to me. (T 1 – 0 S)
  2. TweetDeck has a spell checker when you type your tweet – highly useful for a clumsy typist like me – but Seesmic doesn’t (T 2 – 0 S)
  3. TweetDeck lets you see the underlying URL behind a shortened one when you hover your mouse over it, letting you know where you’re going before you click. Seesmic doesn’t (T 3 – 0 S)
  4. Seesmic Desktop 2 has some nifty plugins that enhance its usefulness – I especially like Sticky – better than TweetDeck in some areas. (T 3 – 1 S)
  5. Seesmic Desktop 2 is just more elegant than TweetDeck. Yes, I know, that’s a very subjective thing. But important to me. (T 3 – 2 S)

So for me, both are so close together in usefulness that it’s hard to see the gap.

Still, there is a gap. And it’s why TweetDeck for me is – by a whisker – my preferred desktop app for interacting with Twitter.

Loic, if you can fix at least the first one of my 5 points, things could be different right away!

[Later] Re my five points, Loic responded on Twitter:

[…] we’re working on the 3 points to improve, the 2 first ones are Silverlight limitations [Microsoft] is working on.

A new Twitter app for Windows users from Seesmic

seesmicdesktopwindowssplash In my experience, the best way of interacting with your community on Twitter is by using a third-party application rather than via Twitter’s website.

My app of choice on the desktop is TweetDeck, a product I’ve been using since it first appeared last year and which I’ve frequently written about.

I also like Seesmic, an app with many similarities to TweetDeck and which is most often compared with TweetDeck in the various app popularity polls and reviews that appear from time to time.

Both TweetDeck and Seesmic are built on the Adobe AIR developer platform, meaning the apps are multi-platform that can run on Windows, Mac and Linux computers – handy from a developer point of view in particular. Both also offer apps for the iPhone.

Now Seesmic has introduced Seesmic for Windows, an application designed to run on Windows computers, and optimized for Windows 7, says Seesmic CEO Loic Le Meur.

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If you’ve been using the existing Seesmic app, you’ll see from the screenshot (click for a full-size view) that the new Seesmic for Windows app is very similar from the look-and-feel point of view.

I’m trying it and like it a lot based only on usage so far today. Things I notice are how quick it is compared to the version that’s built with Adobe AIR, and the small memory footprint: 74Mb of RAM, according to Windows Vista’s Task Manager.

It’s missing quite a few things I’m used to – the right-click menu you get when you click a user’s avatar is lacking some features, for instance – but it is a preview, a beta, so expect some wonkiness in the early versions.

Great to see a development like this which reflects a clear need in the market for a Windows app as Loic says the “vast majority” of Seesmic users are on Windows.

I’ll contribute comment and opinion as I get to know Seesmic for Windows.

The market opportunity for Twitter apps

For day-to-day interacting with Twitter, you can’t beat a good third-party app in my experience.

As to which is the best one, that’s largely a matter of subjective opinion although some popularity measurement is good, too.

My favourite? TweetDeck followed closely by Seesmic Desktop which I’m trying out. Those are what I use on the desktop and the laptop. I have other favourites for mobile devices.

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But if you look around, you’ll see that there are literally hundreds of applications you can use to interact with Twitter, nearly all for free.

Here’s as good a popularity measure as any – the top 20 Twitter clients (third-party apps) as measured by numbers of users by Twitstat. The numbers update daily.

I’ve taken the top 20 you see above from Twitstat’s larger total (some 224 different Twitter clients, says Twitstat) from which you can note some interesting aspects.

First, the ‘app’ out front by a large margin is the web, ie, direct access to twitter.com with a desktop (or laptop) web browser, at 26.61% of users according to Twitstat.

In second place is TweetDeck with 11.22% of users. Twhirl (the still-active predecessor to Seesmic Desktop) is fifth with 3.69%. Seesmic Desktop just makes it into this list at number 20 with 0.78%.

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While TweetDeck is the current leading desktop app, I reckon Seesmic Desktop will soon come knocking on its door especially as that app continues developing to add new features and functionality and as Twhirl presumably gets less developer attention. See what Seesmic founder and CEO Loic Le Meur has to say.

But doesn’t that view assume TweetDeck does nothing more? I guess it does, which of course I just don’t see happening especially as it’s widely known that developer Iain Dodsworth – who secured venture funding in January – is developing a Pro version, aimed at the business user with additional features for which you’d pay.

And I’ve not even mentioned how both apps also integrate with others services such as Facebook, 12seconds.tv, seesmic video, and more.

If you want to see blow-by-blow comparisons and other commentary about these competing apps, you have plenty of reviews to choose from.

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These three apps – TweetDeck, Twhirl and Seesmic Desktop – are all desktop apps: you install and run them on your computer. Each uses Adobe AIR, meaning among other things that they’re cross-platform and will run on Windows, Mac and Linux machines.

What about mobile?

Twitstat’s numbers show that the most popular app for using Twitter on a mobile device is Tweetie (at number three with 6.25%) which runs only on the iPhone; a version to run on the desktop, on Mac computers, is in the works.

I use Tweetie on my iPhone and it is excellent. On my Nokia N95 8GB, I use Twibble Mobile (not in Twitstat’s list although its desktop sibling Twibble is, at number 46 with 0.21%) although I’m also trying out Gravity (number 32 with 0.36%). Both terrific apps.

And there you have the interesting issue – the market for Twitter apps is not only huge, it’s hugely fragmented right now.

As soon as someone develops the killer app that contains that magical balance of features and functionality and who knows what else that causes the “OMG, I absolutely have got to have that!”, they’ll clean up.

I wonder who that will be.