A surprisingly large number of users still use Twitter’s web interface for tweeting. A good majority of them are basic users who possibly don’t need advanced features offered by the desktop clients. However, there are times when even power users are forced to use the web-client. For example, when tweeting from office or cyber cafe. Here are two new web-based alternatives to Twitter.com which were released earlier this week. They offer features comparable to desktop clients right inside your browser.
Seesmic is a relatively new twitter client that is already making waves. Seesmic Desktop client is my favourite due to features like Spell Check, Tweet Shrink and full Facebook Integration (TweetDeck has a half-hearted Facebook integration).
Like its desktop counterpart Seesmic Web offers Multi-Column as well as single column interface. The single column interface is aimed at the casual twitter users who may not be comfortable with multi-column interface. At first glance the single column mode looks strikingly similar to Gmail. And this actually works to its benefit. The single column interface appears simplistic, easy to use and familiar as it should. The multi-column interface looks a lot like its desktop counterpart. By default two columns are available – Your Twitter Feed and the Replies Feed. Any Twitter search you perform gets saved to your twitter account history and the results are displayed in a column (in multi-column mode). Another helpful feature is the threaded direct message display. If you use DM a lot, this will certainly help you. Seesmic automatically groups conversations together in Gmail style.
Seesmic Web works really well. It worked on all the browsers I tried (Opera, Firefox, Internet Explorer 8 and Chrome). It has a compelling list of features with a smooth navigation and clean layout. Seesmic automatically displays basic information (Following/Followers) about any user when you hover over their avatar and allows you to instantly Follow/Unfollow people. The only chink in its armour is the lack of support for replying to multiple tweeples at once. Seesmic Web also lacks advanced features like usergroups and multiple account support.
I came across this client on Manan’s blog. If features are what you are after, I am sure you would like this. Heck! They basically ported their goddamned client over to the web. Sobees features multiple templates (16 to be exact) and should be more than enough to satisfy everyone. The big advantage of Sobees over Seesmic Web is the support for multiple accounts. You can operate separate twitter accounts in separate panes. Facebook support is not yet included but Sobees promises that it’s coming soon. As I said, Sobees works pretty much like a desktop client. Hovering over an avatar (display picture) reveals the by now famous 4 icons – Reply, DM, Retweet or Favourite. Surprisingly, like Sobees also doesn’t allow you to reply to multiple tweets. One aspect where Sobees seems to have concentrated a lot on is Searches. Sobees not only features twitter search but also supports FriendFeed and Oneriot.
Sobees can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. It straightaway addresses one of my major complaints with Seesmic Web – lack of user groups. Not only does Sobees have usergroups, once you create a Sobees account, you can save your settings. Synchronisation between desktop client and web client would come in handy if you need to use both.
Sobees is built using Silverlight and you must have the latest version installed (v3) for it to work. It worked on all browsers, however in Opera there were annoying scrollbars all over the place. There are a couple of other usability issues. You can’t copy tweets (although you can paste). Another minor annoyance is that while typing the cursor position isn’t displayed.
The Last Word
Seesmic Web’s Single Pane interface will definitely attract basic users who just want a slightly better (yet not complicated) alternative to Twitter.com. Seesmic’s Web interface is very young and I am sure it will improve with time. However, for the moment Sobees clearly trumps Seesmic. Its plethora of options may overwhelm some, but power-users would definitely appreciate the multiple layout styles, resizable columns, powerful search options, full synchronisation and user groups.