TweetDeck and Seesmic Desktop: Racing To The Bottom?

Twitter was buzzing last night as the latest version of free Twitter client TweetDeck was launched, to fairly universal acclaim.

Mashable has a detailed run-down of the new Tweetdeck features, and a good comparison of the new version with its closest competitor, Seesmic Desktop. In a nutshell, the big-name new features are:

  • A new TweetDeck iPhone app;
  • Support for multiple Twitter accounts;
  • The ability to synchronize accounts across multiple computers and the mobile app;
  • The option to save groups and searches for future use when removing them from your screen.

There’s plenty more, but those are the key functions from my perspective.

Amidst the geeky excitement of a new, improved application for use with Twitter, though, I have one concern:

Are these free apps racing themselves to the bottom?

Is this race for new functionality going to eventually drive these free services out of business?

Here’s my thinking:

  • Right now neither TweetDeck nor Seesmic Desktop generate revenue from their apps.
  • Neither ‘main’ app seems to have a critical mass of users. Fickle audiences flit back and forth between the applications as one gains advantage over the other. 
  • Minimal barriers to entry mean that, at any time, a new application could emerge to challenge the big two (as Seesmic Desktop did, out of the ashes of Twhirl, not so long ago). 
  • Only “power users” will get a lot out of these features. I certainly appreciate the feature, and the power users are the ones with a loud voice, but most people frankly don’t need multiple accounts.
  • If either app tries to charge users without introducing a killer, unreplicable new feature, users will simply switch to the other.

Where does this leave us? Two companies engaged in an endless race for features that benefit very few people, while not being able to monetize their products.

What’s the end game? Being bought-out by Twitter or another company? That’s bubble thinking, not recession planning. I really don’t know the answer.

What do you think?

  • Pingback: jsbelfiore (Jim Belfiore)()

  • Pingback: PVE67 (Philip Van Enis)()

  • Patrick

    I could be wrong but the switching is probably not as extreme as it seems. I suspect some users bounce all the time but not a majority.

  • This is very much a personal gripe but it’s the internetz, isn’t that what it’s all about?

    I’m a TweetDeck user primarily because I’m a creature of habit. It was the first desktop twitter app I tried, it did everything I wanted it to, so I’ve stuck.

    However, a few versions ago, the folks behind the app inexplicably dropped one feature that I consider pretty freakin’ basic. There’s no longer a small counter at the top of each column telling you how many unread tweets there are in said column. It’s not a fatal error and I’ve pretty much adapted but it’s a pain in the ass.

    Now, the real kicker for me is that TweetDeck follows me on Twitter. I’ve DM’d and @ replied asking them about this feature on at least five occassions.

    No reply.

    Yet every few weeks a new version comes out with some feature I hadn’t even considered. I suppose someone is asking for them and, as you identified, it’s probably the power users. But it feels kinda like a kick in the stones for a non-power but totally loyal user like myself.

    Is my frustration going to break TweetDeck? Of course not. Hell, it hasn’t even driven me to try another app yet. But if they treat other non-power users the same way, how long before there’s a critical mass of us?

  • Pingback: nirvan5a (nirvan5a)()

  • Pingback: giuvicente (Giu Vicente)()

  • The ability to switch applications with great ease is a great point, and is one of the biggest challenges with the online space. I think this is what Microsoft is hoping for with the launch of Bing.

    I think TweedDeck is actually trying to prevent this race to the bottom. There was one clever addition to the new TweetDeck that may prevent this indiscriminant switching of applications.

    First, TweetDeck finally created a feature that allows you to synchronize the application across multiple accounts. The creation of the account finally gives TweedDeck an email relationship with the user. When you have exclusive access to a group of users, you can eventually monetize that relationship.

    Second, because you can finally synchronize across accounts, users will likely invest more time to customize the columns. This will create a barrier to switching applications, because you will lose all of your customizations if you switch. However, I think you might be right: this is likely the domain of the power user.

  • Pingback: jkhowland (Joshua Howland)()

  • Martha

    I don’t subscribe to the thinking that Tweetdeck/Seesmic are for power users. I started on Tweetdeck only days after getting onto Twitter and think online users know to seek out the many apps developed around new tools.

    I’ve tried Seesmic and will likely do so again to continue comparing. I love online tools for this reason – easy to switch, better selection, continue to identify my own user needs by seeing what is/isn’t readily available.

    While not a Seesmic devotee, yet, kudos to their online twitter support and engagement (@askseesmic) – very proactive and helpful.

    Let’s hope the rush continues to be rush, to the top not bottom for we’ll all benefit.

    @mjmclean

  • Martha – I agree that these tools aren’t only for power users – I didn’t mean to imply that. However, the advanced functions likely are – does the average user need multiple accounts? Heck, 53% of users have no followers.

    The tools are for everyone, but very few people benefit from the advanced features.

  • Hi Dave.
    Not a race to the bottom. These apps are adding functionality that is adding significant value to twitter conversations. And each improvement at this early stage of the game is significant. In terms of functionality, I think we’re almost there, but not quite as each platform has its pros and cons.

    I used both Tweetdeck and Twhirl when Seesmic added integrated video commenting from Seesmic – a service I had requested!
    I moved to Seesmic Desktop when unlimited columns were introduced including search terms (nothing like it for Tweetdeck). The continual updating of these search columns are very powerful tools which clearly outperforms the use of limited Groups lists on Tweetdeck.

    Another differentiator is that Tweetdeck has the Favorites column while Seesmic doesn’t. (I miss my Favourites from Tweetdeck.)

    Nevertheless, as these two applications continue to evolve and move into the iPhone and handeld realm we will begin to see stronger allegiances among users, and each app will get better.

    Incidentally, I was disappointed in the Tweetdeck iPhone app and am anxiously awaiting the Seesmic iPhone app. For most Web 2.0 services dollars come later, and these apps are no different. I’m sure they will develop larger audiences and revenue when the brands are more equally adopted across platforms.

    Note to Tweetdeck: the iphone is a different platform! Look at apps like twitterfon. It makes sense. Adapt something like this to your brand instead of creating something that tries (unsuccessfully) to reproduce the Web based user experience.

    That being said, it’s definitely NOT a race to the bottom. Every evolution of twitter applications the user experience gets better and with that, will come wider adoption.

  • Hey Todd,

    I’m thinking about it more as a race to the bottom of their bank accounts than in terms of features.

    The new features are great, but if this constant (and expensive, in terms of development) rush to out-do the other tools comes at the expense of finding a way to become sustainable, where’s the end game?

  • Excellent analysis. I think about these things, but I don’t have the answer. Andrew Sinclair had a great point about the TweetDeck user id and how it binds us closer to TweetDeck, however, I’m sure it won’t be long before we demand our data. We’ll have a download feature for TweetDeck data and then it will once again be easy to switch services whenever something new captures our attention.

  • Great analysis as usual, Dave, and one that many people probably wouldn’t even have thought about.

    I’ve used both and I have to say I prefer Seesmic still (yes, even after the Tweetdeck upgrades). I just feel they’re more community-minded and actually care what’s being said. Loic and his team really do seem to listen and implement requests fairly soon afterward.

    With regards the financial aspect, it’s a valid point. Of course, they may be doing it in the vein of old-school videogame bedroom coders – for the love of the challenge and tech geekiness. Which I’m all for, by the way.

    But if it is to be a sustainable and profitable venture for either of them, I’d say they need to offer something that’s completely out of the box that really benefits both average and power Twitter user.

    I don’t know what that might be, but it sure won’t be iPhone compatibility.

  • Just a quick note to say congrats on the GREAT ratings on Scribnia. I found your site there and due to the great comments, here I am. Great site!
    I will visit often.

  • Thanks Jeannette – much appreciated!

  • Colour me cynical if you like, but I though Tweetdeck was a stealth ploy by Adobe to force people to install it’s AIR software. There’s no other reason to have AIR on my machine.

    Read that first word as color if you’re in North America.

  • Pingback: tbobchen (tbobchen)()

  • Pingback: swhitley (Shannon Whitley)()

  • Pingback: mjmclean (Martha McLean)()

  • Pingback: arikhanson (arikhanson)()

  • Pingback: mclgreenville (Matt Long)()

  • As much as I love the functionality that TweetDeck gives me, I may have to abandon it for something else if they can’t fix the bugs. Like the fact that it keeps freezing up my whole XP system from time to time.