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It should have been obvious when TweetDeck was acquired by Twitter back in 2011 that it wasn’t long for this world. Even more so when the only significant update in the intervening period was to remove a feature (handling tweets over 140 characters).
Although Twitter started out by enthusiastically embracing 3rd-party app developers, its quest to find a way to monetise its service has led the company to grab more and more control over how its users interact with the platform. Users who use Twitter’s website and mobile apps can be served ads, or “promoted tweets”, much more easily than those using 3rd-party clients. The transition was an obvious one, but not a pleasant one – many developers turned on Twitter, accusing it of being actively hostile to developers.
I would be hard pushed to disagree. Westminster Hubble relied on Twitter’s RSS feeds to let people follow their MPs more easily – a feature broken by Twitter’s API changes. SuccessWhale survives, but hardly with Twitter’s blessing – if it were to ever have 100,000 users, it would be banned.
TweetDeck’s Merged “Mentions” and “Notifications” Column
And today we lose the TweetDeck app on desktop and mobile platforms.
I am an avid user of TweetDeck for Android (actually, its fork “TweakDeck”, though they are very similar). This is for the simple reason that it is the only Android app that can combine “mentions” from multiple Twitter accounts and “notifications” from a Facebook account in a single column view. Surely this is a feature that plenty of people would like in an app. But check out the competition. This is a list of all the Android apps that are both Twitter and Facebook clients:
- TweetDeck is dying – service outages are forecast before it is killed off completely in May.
- TweakDeck is an old fork of TweakDeck, not under Twitter’s control – but the API changes that kill TweetDeck will take TweakDeck with them.
- Seesmic offers combined Twitter and Facebook feeds in its paid version – I don’t object to paying £1.89 for an app, but Seesmic has been acquired by HootSuite and will be phased out.
- HootSuite itself does support multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts, but its user interface offers no way to merge feeds together or even swipe between columns from different accounts.
- Scope offers a merged mentions/notifications feed, but only supports one Twitter account, has performance issues (on my devices at least) and has odd defaults (all retweets are also posted to Facebook, Tumblr etc unless manually turned off every time).
- UberSocial (formerly Twidroid) supports only one Twitter account, and adds Facebook as an afterthought with no merging of feeds.
- Plume (formerly Touiteur) supports multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts, but only supports Facebook’s posts feed, not notifications.
- StreamLife is intentionally low on functionality, and only shows “home” timelines, not mentions/notifications.
The functionality that Twitter is removing by retiring TweetDeck is simply not found anywhere else in the Android ecosystem. Until some other application steps in to fill the gap, a function that I and many other users love is simply and infuriatingly impossible to achieve on Android.
Just like with Facebook, it is the network effect that keeps me – and countless other developers – using Twitter despite its increasingly developer-hostile control over the ways in which we interact with it.
One day, perhaps the “next big thing” in social networking will be a platform that starts open and stays open.