Did you hear that deep collective sigh that seemed to wind across the Internet last night? It was the sound of millions of TweetDeck users crying themselves to sleep over the announcement that Twitter plans to kill the desktop (AIR) and mobile versions of the app. And this morning, the Internets are alive with rage. Well, at least some corners of them, including the Internets in my office, where my office assistant actually went on strike to protest.
Except that, well, what's actually happening is a bit more complicated, and it's good news for TweetDeck desktop users. The problem here is that it wasn't reported well, and consequently, there was a lot of panic for nothing (and I was among the panickers, before a lovely person on Twitter straightened me out).
What's really going to happen is that Twitter is going to drop support for the deprecated AIR desktop version, rolling out TweetDeck 2.0, which restores a lot of the functionality people loved about the old desktop version (who's still using yellow TweetDeck? Hollah!).
Mobile users, I'm afraid you're SOL; Twitter is solidly committed to killing TweetDeck for iOS and Android and forcing users to switch over to the official Twitter app. Sorry.
For those of us who Tweet, which is, you know, a pretty huge percentage of the xoJane staff and a fair number of y’all down there below the line too, the hunt for a perfect Twitter app requires time and patience. We all have different things that we want from our Twitter apps, but we seem universally united in our hatred of the actual web Twitter, which, let’s face it, sucks giant donkey balls.
It’s pretty much useless for any kind of organized, functional Tweeting, especially if you have multiple accounts, follow a lot of people, want to schedule Tweets, or anything like that. I cringe at the phrase “Twitter power user,” but, uh, yeah. Web Twitter doesn’t work for power users; it’s like a crude ghost of what Twitter can and should be, like a cake where someone forgot the flavoring, the sugar, the shortening, and the eggs, leaving instead a sticky floury mass.
TweetDeck became my favorite Twitter app for a few simple reasons after testing out a lot of different options. It allowed me to mute specific users, sources (SERIOUSLY I don’t need to know about what you’re doing on Foursquare and I have little to no interest in having your Tumblr posts fed to me on Twitter -- if I want to see them, I’ll follow you on Tumblr), and phrases. Tired of hearing about “elevator shaming”? MUTE! Done. Bam.
It also had multiple account support, a scheduling function, multiple columns for organizing and a lovely fat “mentions” column with all the mentions for all my accounts gathered in one place, which was really useful for me. And, of course, it offered apps on multiple platforms including desktop, mobile, and web (why?!) versions which you could log into with a single signon that saved all your Twitter information.
TECH SNAPS UP TECH
So when Twitter acquired TweetDeck in 2011, I was instantly suspicious. This would lead, I suspected, to nothing good. It was part of a slew of tech companies snapping up startups based on their services and related products, like Facebook buying Instagram (about which more in a moment) and so forth, where the goal seemed to be to consolidate power over third-party applications.
More than that, it was about controlling how people viewed, created and shared content on platforms like Twitter, like Facebook, and so on. As users and developers came up with innovative ideas, it made the original company nervous, especially as companies turned to more creative ways to generate ad revenue and buzz. You wouldn’t want users, say, muting sponsored Tweets, or culling ads from their feeds.
So began the quiet jockeying for position as big web companies swiftly moved to buy up anything and everything that looked like it might infringe on their control of their services, or anything that might be used to compete, and in some cases, followed acquisitions by shutting down the services they bought.
That’s why Facebook bought Instagram. It wanted that built-in userbase, and it wanted something to compete with Twitter’s imaging services. Notably, of course, Facebook and Twitter are currently in what I can only describe as a defriending war complete with petty moves like not displaying Instragram thumbnails on Web Twitter.
CHANGES FOR TWEETDECK
So I can’t say I was totally shocked by the announcement yesterday that Twitter is discontinuing TweetDeck's mobile versions and outdated desktop application, focusing on the web version and 2.0 on up desktop versions of the app. Older iterations of TweetDeck don’t suit Twitter’s needs. It wants people to use Web Twitter and the official Twitter app (which sucks, BTW, am I right?), and it wants more control over how TweetDeck is used, so it's finally cutting off the AIR version.
The press release on the subject, however, was misinterpreted, and a lot of people thought it meant all desktop versions of the application were going poof in May. Many of us whom are, to put it mildly, not impressed. I’m not the only one who wailed and screamed on Twitter (of course) as the news went live yesterday, and the wrath is boiling over this morning too even as people are starting to get a better understanding of what's going on. The removal of the mobile versions is no bueno, and even though Twitter is actually just dropping the older AIR-based desktop version, not the newer versions, a lot of people still rely on the old TweetDeck and will be sad to see it go.
But we need to face facts. TweetDeck as we know it is going to be changing in May, and you can choose to stay on board with the new version, or jump ship. The increasing instability of older versions of the desktop app is going to culminate in having them pulled altogether, while mobile Tweeters will be looking at blank screens soon; Twitter says people, ah, “may experience some outages” before the official TweetDeck funeral.
So it’s time to accept that Twitter has won this round, and, some eyes, destroyed a perfectly good and delightful product; from Twitter’s point of view, though, it’s focusing on monetizing Twitter, controlling the way people use it, and satisfying advertisers and investors.
FINDING A NEW TWITTER APPLICATION
So it’s time to look at alternatives, for those of you on mobile, and a possible app for consideration if you don't want to be forced to upgrade to the new TweetDeck. So far, the best I’ve found, thanks to a tip from a Tumblr follower, is Janetter, which offers mobile and desktop versions with muting and multiple account support along with my beloved columns. You can also see which app people are Tweeting from if you're a nosy parker like me, and they've made it really easy to follow conversations by displaying them in @replies, something which has been bugging me lately; sometimes I get Tweets and I have NO IDEA what they were in response to. And, for those who need that functionality, it tracks faves and RTs of your stuff. (You vain people you.)
One thing it doesn’t appear to offer is scheduling, which is a pity, and I also already miss the centralized mentions column that pulls all my mentions into one place, but I’m getting used to it -- and for those of us who need muting to filter out unwanted noise, this app is the best I’ve found at it so far. (Plume for Android is also pretty good, but things slip through.)
However, be warned: Rumor has it that Twitter’s also planning on killing muting functionality through its API documentation, requiring third-party apps to display all Tweets in a timeline. While intended to force people to view ads, of course, the unintended consequence will be loading everyone’s Twitter feeds with the things they don’t want to see; whether they’re ReTweets of that ex that all your friends seem to love even though he’s a giant asshole or endless Tumblr updates from someone who seems to post there every three seconds.
How are you coping with the projected death of TweetDeck on mobile and the changes to desktop? Are you inconsolable, moving on (and if so, to which app?), or in a state of “Huh? What are you even talking about?”? And, in the broader picture, are you thinking about the implications of firms snapping up and then destroying third-party apps?