Micro-blogging - Comparison of Services
Micro-blogging is a great way to keep people up to date on what you are doing or just share neat stuff you find without the weight of a full blown blog. Great for those quick mini-rants, announcements and questions you want to share with the world, or even a select few. Ever since I got into Pownce, I have found micro-blogging to be an excellent addition to your social life on the web. But, which is the best for you? I checked out three big players in this area, as well as three smaller competitors and weighed up the features.
Table of ContentsDue to the length of this post, I have put together a table of contents.
- What is Micro-blogging?
- Standard Feature Comparison Table
- Services That Integrate Them All
- "What Should I Use?"
- Mike's Pick
- BONUS: Invites Up For Grabs
What is Micro-blogging?Micro-blogging is a simple way to share whatever you want! Unlike "full" blogging, which can suggest some sort of journal/diary or article length posting, micro-blogging is for those who want to send our small messages to selected people (Some called "followers"). Micro-blogging often incorporates services that can fit in with a daily life style, such as SMS (for users on the go), instant messaging or even e-mail.
Oh, and a heads-up: It's a faux pas to post what you are eating. ;)
PownceI have already reviewed Pownce, back when it was first launched. Pownce is a micro-blogging service from Kevin Rose, Leah Culver and Daniel Burka that allows you to share files, links, events and standard messages. If you need a service that's more like a micro-forum, that is steadily growing, go for Pownce.
- Good Design - When Pownce originally launched, 4 profile designs were offered so you could customize how you and everyone else viewed your profile. Recently, a number of alternative designs have been added so you have more options, pro users even get to customize it further.
- Go Beyond Text - Unlike the other micro-blogging services, Pownce allows you to change the type of message you send. You have the option to attach a link, file or event with your text message.
- Upcoming Events - When people you follow post up events, they are added to your upcoming events queue which is displayed in a small section on your profile.
- Pro Account - For $20 a year you can get a pro account, which offers further customization of your profile, larger file upload restrictions, no ads and a pretty ribbon for your profile picture! Great for the pownce-power-user.
- Adobe AIR Desktop Application - Due to the lack of a full API, there is only the official Pownce desktop app. Running on Adobe AIR, this app allows you to quickly read and post messages, with all your usual message options (files, events, links).
- Link to Other Profiles - You can list your links to a selection of off-site profile (such as your Facebook or Digg), IM accounts and websites on your profile. Handy if you want your fellow Powncers to follow you elsewhere.
- No Character Limit - You can make your messages as long as you like! Offers opportunities for detailed discussion, but then again that's something for your full blog or a forum.
- Control Over Recipients - You can choose who receives your messages, by selecting "public", "all my friends", a specific friend or group. Only those who the label applies to will be able to read and reply to that message.
- Invite Only - Even though Pownce has been out for several months, it is still in invite-mode. Though, it's not hard to come by invites now, it's quicker to sign up with one of the open services.
- No SMS - SMS Updates are a key feature (In my opinion) for micro-blogging, the future is mobile!
- API is Read-Only - A read-only API doesn't do much, since we already have RSS feeds. Developers need a writable API so they can make apps for posting to Pownce.
- Often Slow to Load - Pownce has proven to be the slowest service, in my experience. The desktop app is fast enough, but the actual site is slow and sometimes doesn't load.
- Links Restricted - While you can add external links to your profile, the options are restricted to services selected by Pownce. You can add a link as a website, but it's not as quick as just typing in your username/ID.
Mike on Pownce
- Large User-base - Twitter has a huge population, from everyday users to news feeds.
- Simple Design - The site's interface is very simple, easy to use.
- SMS and IM Updates - Keep your followers up-to-date while on the go, or quickly from your IM service. No need to visit the site just to post an update!
- API - The API opens up Twitter to take it further, meaning ways to mash-up your updates with other services.
- Many Fan Apps and Services - Various ways to interact with Twitter, on a whole range of platforms. Twitter's large user-base means there is plenty of developers tinkering away with the API to create them!
- Auto-TinyURL Conversion - If you want to share a link, Twitter will automatically change it to a TinyURL, to shorten your message character count. Not as good as Pownce's offering of a dedicated link field, but it still helps!
- Custom Profile Design - Tweak your profile with some colour and background-image changing. Make your profile stand out from the rest!
- Favourite Messages - Each message has a handy little star icon, which will add the message to your favourites list when clicked. Perfect if you want to bookmark old messages.
- Direct Messages - You can send direct, private messages to other Twitter users, handy if you don't want to go for a full-blown e-mail message just to say "Hello".
- 140 Character Limit on Messages - Some things you want to say just don't squeeze into 140 characters, or lose their meaning when you try to trim them down. Making messages a tad longer would be great, especially when you have lots to say!
Mike on Twitter
JaikuJaiku is Twitter's main competitor. Hailing from Finland and "recently" aqquired by Google, Jaiku offers a pretty micro-blogging service that's fast loading, easy to use and support for "channels". But, you're gonna have to get an invite if Jaiku is your pick, Google's locked it down for now!
- SMS and IM Updates - Jaiku offers mobile updates as well as a dedicated mobile application, with a number of commands for added functionality.
- Nice, Simple Interface - A clean and easy to use interface means you'll be a Jaiku power-user in no time, without making your eyes bleed! You can also add icons to your Jaikus, to help with the visual appeal.
- Fastest Loading - In my experience, Jaiku loads very fast which means no hanging about when I just want to let everyone know I've got my Xbox online via my laptop or some other nonsense.
- API - Take Jaiku, mix it up, and use it in new ways. The API allows developers to create applications and services to give you new ways to interact with Jaiku.
- Set Location - You can define your current location, to help people know if you are available or not. But don't SMS in that you are on the toilet, please.
- Channels - Channels allow you to create groups for like-minded people to join, opening up a way to discuss specific topics to just those who care!
- Aggregate RSS Feed - Jaiku offers the ability to add feeds to your profile, such as your blog, to automatically post updates from the feed.
- Invite Only - Due to Google's aqquisition, Jaiku has become a closed system while upgrades are made to various parts of the site. Don't worry, if you have a friend on Jaiku, they can send you an invite!
- RSS Slow to Update - RSS updates are not instant, which isn't good if your feed breaks news.
- 140 Character Limit on Messages - Like Twitter, the character limit can be a pain when you have lots to say. However, it should be noted that this restriction does not apply to replies.
Mike on Jaiku
PlayTalkPlayTalk, self-defined as a "Social OS based microblog", comes from Korea. Majorly made up of Korean users, PlayTalk goes beyond "what are you doing" and adds more social networking features to microblogging. If you need something extra on top of your updates, check it out.
- Detailed Profile - PlayTalk offers profile features similar to a social network, allowing you to provide a detailed personal and business bio.
- Programs - Users are given the option of adding programs, which are similar to Facebook applications though only made by PlayTalk. They have quite a few available, including blog, calendar, Flickr and Facebook programs. These programs are added to your profile to give extra functionality.
- Design Tweaking - You are able to change the background-image and colour for your profile, to give it a personal touch.
- Permissions - Take control! Set who can and can't see certain parts of your profile, your messages and who can contact you.
- 250 Character Limit on Messages - With a larger (than Jaiku/Twitter) character limit on your messages, you can squeeze in that bit of extra information.
- Post Labels - There is a number of labels that you can apply to your posts, to categorize them. Examples: "Diary", "Love" and "Think"
- Confusing Message Posting - Within your homepage is three tabs "Life Stories From Friends", "My daily life" and "Profile", all of which have the post message section at the top. However, my messages only posted when in the "My daily life" section, without an error message on the others.
- No SMS - PlayTalk claims to have SMS services, but I couldn't find them. The mobile page is entirely unhelpful, only showing a field labelled "E-mail(Mobile)". No SMS options in sight! I've read that it is available in Asia, but I can't test that ;)
- No API - No API = No External Services. This means no fan apps or mash-ups with other sites, leaving you forced to visit the site just to update your status or check friends in the same old boring way.
- Slow - PlayTalk loads quite slow, in my experience, not good for quick updates.
Mike on PlayTalk
BlabtoBlabto is a UK based micro-blogging service that, while not quite as flashy as the others, shows promise. Very low population right now, but it is constantly adding functionality. Could it bring something new to the table? Sign-up for this British underdog today!
- Profile Linking - Users can add a selection of profile links to their page, including Youtube, Facebook and Digg. However, this is restricted to a list, and you have to copy and paste the full URL to your profile. Hopefully, this will soon be auto-generated from your username/id and you'll be able to add a wider selection.
- Detailed Profile - Share your interests, fav music/tv/movie/books and images by filling out your profile. All entirely optional of course, it's nice to have the choice.
- Custom Profile CSS - Change colours and images on your profile. Spruce up the default and dull layout!
- View Visitors - You can see who visited your profile over the past week from your edit profile menu, to find out potential friends (or stalkers).
- Profile MP3 Player - Easily embed an mp3 player into your profile from your settings pages. Share some of your favourite songs with the world!
- Image Uploads - Share images by uploading to Blabto. Max file size is 140kb and file types are pjpeg, jpg, jpeg, png and gif.
- 200 Character Limit on Messages - A small boost from Jaiku/Twitter's, not quite as much as PlayTalk, but still the extra helps to get your message across.
- Low Population - Blabto's userbase is extremely small, so not many people will see your messages (unless you invite lots of friends!)
- No API - No API means no apps. There are RSS feeds, as standard, but that only helps you to display your messages elsewhere.
- No SMS - No Blabto on the go. How can you let everyone know you just saw celebrity X in the street without mobile updates?!!?
- Dull Design - The Blabto design is very basic, without user customization. Come on guys, sell yourself better with a pretty new design!
- MP3 Player Auto-plays - While embedding a music player is nice, auto-play is not! Never, ever, have music auto-play on a website.
Mike on Blabto
MeemiMeemi, "all noise around you", is a small service from Italy that has much potential. With a simple interface, advanced message options and a friendly community, Meemi can go far. Head on over and sign up if you need the ease of Twitter and the functionality of Pownce, it's not a decision you will regret.
- Advanced Message Options - Like Pownce, Meemi allows you to send more than just text. With quote, image, url, event and video/embed, you can make your messages much more interesting and get right to the point of what you want to share.
- Favourite Messages - A little star icon on each message allows you to add it to your favourites list, which you can access from your profile page.
- Simple Interface - Meemi's interface is clean and simple, easy to get to what you need. Post messages in style.
- 500 Character Limit - With an huge character count, plus message nesting, you can get your full message our there and keep the conversation going.
- Design Tweaking - Change the colour, images and even the amount of messages that appear on your profile all from your settings area.
- No SMS - Currently, there is no SMS service. However, I was informed they are a work in progress, so stay tuned!
- No API - Though there is the standard RSS, there is no other way to interact with Meemi without visiting the site. No apps, no addons/plugins/extensions.
- Low Population - Still gaining popularity, Meemi doesn't have very many users, which is fine if you like things small.
- Slow E-mail Notification - One of the issue's I had was e-mail notifications of replies were quite delayed. Not good if I want to keep up-to-date to the minute on what's going on.
Special MentionI did not find out about this site before posting, but another service that looks good is BeeMood. BeeMood offers updates that are based around how you feel, with maps, mobile and online services. Colours are used effectively in BeeMood to further show your mood, whether you are happy or sad! It's new but already has a lot to offer, so pop on over and sign-up!
Standard Feature Comparison TableI've quickly put together a table to show which services offer which features that you would expect from them.
|Service/Feature||SMS||Full API||Easy to Use||Custom Profile Design||Recipient Options||Advanced Message Features|
Services That Integrate Them AllThis begs the question: Is it really necessary to be everywhere? Shouldn't you pick what suits you best and stick with it? It's not as simple as that for some people, their friends might not be able to agree with a chosen service or you may want to increase the reach of your message to as many people as possible (Hey, as long as you aren't spamming or just posting "I had fish for dinner" all the time then that's fine by me!).
One service I have come across is TwitKu(2), a web app that integrates message posting to Twitter and Jaiku, with viewing of messages from the two AND Pownce. As the Pownce API matures, I expect to see posting to all three. The only problem is that you don't have all the features from each, such as Jaiku's icons, but if you just need an easy way to update both your profiles, TwitKu is the site for you.
I also stumbled across an article from FranticIndustries about How To Post to Pownce, Twitter and Jaiku (and Tumblr, see below) at the same time. You can replace Pownce with Blabto or Meemi, or even your own RSS feed should you have a home-grown option. I should point out again that Jaiku's RSS updating is a bit slow, so updates won't be instant on that end.
AlternativesYou don't just have these services to sign up for, there are others out there. There is also a range of alternative options for keeping people up-to-date with your status, sharing stuff and just keeping track of hot buzz such as a tumblelog, a form of blogging where you can quickly and easily share stuff. A popular platform is Tumblr, which quickly has you "simple blogging" and recently had a massive update. Perfect, if you need something a bit more advanced.
A number of social networks have taken to "status updates", a way to notify all your friends of your status. While this isn't as advanced as the services above, it is suitable for those who want an integrated solution for simple updates. Of course, with the Facebook Platform and Google's Open Social, bringing external services may be better.
What should you use?Honestly, it's up to you! I've listed all the pros and cons so you can decide what suits your situation. Need something big but simple? Twitter. Need advanced message options? Pownce. Fan of Google or (Finnish Metal)? Jaiku. Like supporting the underdog, so you can be there when they make it big? Blabto, PlayTalk or Meemi. Choose what's best for you, and bring your friends on board.
Mike's PickPersonally, I have found myself attached to Jaiku, which is currently my choice of platform. However, I would like to see a service that integrates them all, from one simple interface but with the extended functionality of each. The big issue is SMS updates, there's no way to post to them all that way, plus Jaiku and Twitter are currently the only ones offering this service. I suppose I could use multiple recipients, but that can get costly.
Right now, I am using TwitKu to post to both Twitter and Jaiku, and if something major happens I update all the others manually.
BONUS: Invites Up For GrabsIn the case of Jaiku and Pownce, you need an invite to join. Pownce invites are easy to find now, but they are still being given away and Jaiku invites will be available as I get them. The requirements are:
- Comment on the above article. Try to show you actually read some of it ;)
- Add the name of the service you would like an invite to on a new line in your comment.
- Provide a valid e-mail in the e-mail field of the comments. This is so you don't have to share it with everyone, since only I will see it.
It would be nice if you could return to this post, if you find yourself with spare invites, and share them with those who arrived here too late. Robert Connor has been leading the way in my previous Jaiku post by inviting those who missed their chance. A big thank you to him for being so kind, I hope more people follow in his example :)
Of course, if neither Jaiku or Pownce are your thing but you have chosen to sign up to one of the others, then feel free to add me. All my profile links are found in each site's section, though it's safe to assume that my username is akamike on all of them.
Well, that's it! It would be nice if you could subscribe too, I'm sure there will be more posts you will be interested in reading/discussing in future. Happy commenting!