SiliconFilter

Report: Google’s +1 Buttons Gain Wider Distribution, Facebook Still Dominant

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In some corners of the Internet, the battle between Google’s +1 buttons and Facebook’s and Twitter’s equivalent sharing tools has already been decided. According to Enterprise SEO company Brightedge, however, all of these tools still have a lot of room to grow when it comes to distribution on the top 10,000 websites. Google’s buttons are currently only in use on 4.5% of these sites, while Facebook’s Like button and box are being used by 10.8% and 6.1% of these sites respectively. (more…)



4:00 pm


Why Twitter Should be Very Worried About Google+

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When Google unexpectedly launched its new social network Google+ earlier this week, many pundits were skeptical about the company’s latest attempt to enter the social arena. Given Google’s dismal track record when it comes to these kinds of products, that kind of skepticism made sense, but after using it extensively for the last few days, I can’t help but think that it is the single biggest threat Twitter has had to face yet.

Google, being late to the party, had the advantage of being able to learn from Twitter, Facebook and every other social network out there right now.

Note: I’m consciously not saying that it’s a threat to Facebook (at least not for now), as I think the group dynamics and strong network effect that made Facebook what it is today will continue to be relevant and have locked users in for now.

addictive

Twitter’s Problem and Google’s Advantage

What Google+ makes abundantly clear is that Twitter’s success was a happy accident. While Google was able to bake all of Twitter’s current core functions (status updates, /replies/retweets/shares/photo sharing etc.) into its service at launch, Twitter grew organically. That, at the time, was to Twitter’s advantage. Now, however, it is holding the company’s growth back, as those conventions that grew out of this are anything but intuitive for newcomers. Indeed, one could argue that everything Twitter has done over the last few months was meant to rein this chaos in.

Why Twitter Should be Concerned

So here is why I think Twitter should be very concerned:

It’s Everywhere Google Is: Google added a Google+ notification icon to the Sandbar (the black bar that sits on top of every Google product now). It’s crack. It keeps drawing you back to Google+. If you regularly use search, Gmail or Google Docs, Google+ will also be just one click away.

Even though Google’s +1 buttons don’t do much yet, those buttons will soon be connected to Google+ in some form as well, giving Google+ an instant presence on virtually every major website.

media-brandsCircles: Google took Twitter’s asymmetric follower model and put some great twists on it. Thanks to this, you can use Google+ just like you would use Twitter: to follow interesting people. When they share something publicly, it will appear in your stream.

While Google is mostly describing circles as a way to share content privately or semi-privately with select groups, it’s also an easy way to create Twitter-like lists with interesting people you would like to follow. Consuming content – whether from your friends or media brands – will become a major part of the Google+ experience.

Comments: Twitter’s @replies are clunky at best and hard to explain to new users. On Google+, you just leave a comment and a real and real-time discussion can form around the content. That is far more compelling and easier to use than using @replies. Google uses +replies in these comment threads to make these discussions even easier to follow and to push out notifications to the Sandbar when somebody mentions you.

fail_whaleGoogle+ Will be a Platform: Currently, there are no APIs for developers to write products that could hook into Google+. That means we can’t have aggregation tools, third-party clients or anything else that has become standard in the Twitter ecosystem right now.

All of that is coming, though, and while Twitter has managed to squander most of its developer community’s trust, Google doesn’t have to worry about that at all. Indeed, Google will likely be able to offer access to the Google+ firehose to anybody who wants it, free of charge.

No artificial character limits: For a long time now, Twitter’s proponents have argued that Twitter’s 140 character limit was an advantage. It keeps posts brief and to the point. Once you use Google+ for a bit, though, you come to realize that those constraints are really just annoying at the end – and likely hard to explain to a mainstream user anyway.

Google Doesn’t Have to Worry About Monetization: After all these years, Twitter still hasn’t figure out how to make money in a way that won’t alienate its users. Google can just stick some AdSense ads into the Google+ sidebar if it really wants to monetize Google+ directly.

Hangouts: Built-in video chats are a killer feature. Nobody else is doing anything this slick right now.

There are lots of other small reasons why I think Google+ could threaten Twitter: built-in photo sharing, for example, the potential for making it a platform for working collaboratively and extending it to every other Google product in some form. Then, there are the mobile apps for the mobile web, Android and iPhone (iPhone is coming soon). Those include a group messaging feature and Foursquare-like check-ins.

What do You Think?

What do you think? I’m I too optimistic about Google+ here and too down on Twitter? Let me know in the comments.

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3:40 pm


Twitter.com Finally Gets Automatic Link Shortening

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Link shorteners like bit.ly are some of the most often used tools in the Twitter ecosystem. While Twitter itself has been using it’s own t.co URL shortener for a while, it was never integrated into the Twitter.com web interface. That’s changing today. Twitter now automatically shortens links for URLs and will also ensure that links don’t point to sites that are reported to be malicious.

This feature is starting to roll out to “a small percentage of users” today, so don’t worry if you don’t see it yet. According to Twitter, it will eventually be available for everyone.

(more…)



11:21 pm


More Buttons Coming to a Site Near You: Twitter Follow and Google +1

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It’s a big day for buttons today. Twitter just introduced its new Follow button and thanks to an unfortunate leak, we also know that Google is planning to launch its +1 button for third-party sites tomorrow. Twitter’s Follow button has long been overdue. It allows site owners to give their visitors a chance to follow their accounts with just a few clicks. Google’s +1 button is part of the company’s efforts to add more social signals to its search results. Whenever somebody +1s a story on a third-party site, this information will appear in their friends’ search results if that page appears (and can also push sites up on their friends’ search results pages).

Twitter Follow Button

follow_buttonIn some ways, Twitter’s Follow button currently feels like the forgotten stepchild of the Facebook Like box. As Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan noted on Twitter earlier today, the fact that it doesn’t show the faces of followers like Facebook’s box feels like a missed opportunity. According to Twitter developer Ryan Sarver, though, this feature could be coming in a future release.

Will People Use Google’s +1 Buttons

We’ll write more about Google +1 buttons once they’re released tomorrow, but one of the reasons why I’ve been rather skeptical about Google’s +1 initiative is that there really isn’t a good reason why a user would press the +1 button instead of the Facebook ‘like’ button or a Twitter share button instead.

I’m not aware of any research about this, but my guess is that most users who do use these tools only pick one button when they decide to share a story with their friends and then move on. With Facebook and Twitter, it’s clear where those shares end up. With +1, they could one day end up on a friend’s search results page, but I’m not sure that provides enough motivation for somebody to actually use this feature.



9:37 pm


Twitter Launches New Permissions Screen, Vows to Keep Your Direct Messages Safe

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Twitter just announced that it is launching a redesigned permissions screen today that will make it easier for users to understand which data they are sending to third-party services. In addition, Twitter also announced that apps that “do not need access to your direct messages will no longer have it” by the end of the month. Over the next few days, you will likely see quite a few pop-ups in your third-party Twitter apps that will ask you to confirm that you still want them to be able to access your direct messages.

Keeping your DMs Safe

How exactly Twitter will determine that an app doesn’t need access to your direct messages isn’t clear, but it’s good to see that the company is closing this major security and privacy loophole. Until now, your direct messages were accessible to any third-party app that asked for it as Twitter’s API only supported two types of account authorization: read-only and read-write. There was no way to block third-party apps from accessing your direct messages.

New Permissions Screen

The new permissions screen will also help to explain to users what data you are sharing with a third-party service. To see which apps currently have access to your Twitter data, just head over to the “applications” page for your Twitter account.

new_twitter_permissions_screen



10:14 am


Twitter Launches Redesigned Mobile Site for Smartphones

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While Twitter has been continually updating its desktop apps and desktop browser experience, its mobile site has been sorely lacking – both with regards to design and functionality. Today, however, Twitter announced that it is launching a new HTML5-based version of its mobile site for smartphones and tablets. This new design will roll out slowly. Today, only a select number of users on iPhones, iPod Touches and Android smartphones will see the new site, but Twitter plans to roll this new version out to all users over the next few weeks.

This new version will replicate some of the functionality of the new desktop version of Twitter. Tweets with images, for example, will display previews of these photos and you will be able to easily switch back and forth between @mentions, messages, your lists and trending topics with the help of a navigation bar at the top of the screen.

Given that Twitter already offers native apps for these platforms, upgrading its mobile site was likely not a priority for the company. At the same time, though, it’s good to see the company finally upgrade the mobile web experience.



2:40 pm


Why Acquiring TweetDeck Makes Sense for Twitter

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The Wall Street Journal today reported on a rumor that Twitter is “in advanced talks to buy TweetDeck,” the popular Twitter client for the desktop and browser. Neither Twitter nor TweetDeck founder Iain Dodsworth have responded to these rumors.

As much as I would prefer to see a healthy ecosystem of Twitter apps, I can’t help but think that it makes sense for Twitter to buy TweetDeck, especially given what we know about Twitter’s priorities these days.

Here is why I think this move makes sense for Twitter: [list]

  • TweetDeck is highly popular with Twitter’s heaviest users. Twitter is working hard on bringing more casual users to its service – even if it’s just for consuming news – but it doesn’t currently have any worthwhile in-house offerings for heavier users. While its mobile clients are quite good, the only desktop client Twitter currently offers is for the Mac and while it’s alright, it lacks quite a few of the features that power users would expect.
  • Rumor has it – and I’d take this with a grain of salt – that UberMedia acquired TweetDeck earlier this year. This rumor was never confirmed. Assuming UberMedia had bought TweetDeck, it would have controlled over 20% of all traffic on Twitter, something Twitter was likely not willing to let happen without a fight. Chances are that if both Twitter and UberMedia are interested in TweetDeck, Twitter will win the bidding war.
  • With the acquisition of Tweetie, Twitter already has some experience in adopting third-party clients to its in-house style.
  • Twitter has already said that it thinks all of these different clients are too confusing for its users. Turning the most popular third-party client into an official one (Twitter Pro?) takes care of this problem.
  • TweetDeck’s browser-based client (freely available for Chrome and as a closed beta for all other browsers) is actually better than Twitter’s own website (though not quite as good as Seesmic Web, in my opinion).
  • Twitter wants to have full control over its ecosystem. [/list]

Of course, there are also some cons. TweetDeck would be the only Adobe AIR-based client in its stable. It would also be the only one with support for Facebook (but that’s easily rectified, I imagine).

Consequence: A Twitter Monoculture

Overall, then, I think it would make sense for Twitter to buy TweetDeck. I’m not sure I like this idea, though. Twitter, it seems, wants to build a monoculture of official clients. This will hold back innovation and hurt Twitter in the long run (how much innovation have we seen from Twitter itself lately, after all?). Twitter needed the third-party ecosystem to grow during its early days and I can’t help but think that it still needs it today.



2:44 pm


TweetDeck Launches Web-Based Version of its Twitter Client for (Almost) All Browsers

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TweetDeck, the popular Adobe AIR-based Twitter client, started offering a web-based version of its service in Google’s Chrome Web Store late last year. There, it quickly became one of the most popular apps in the store. Today, TweetDeck is launching a limited beta of the web-based version of TweetDeck that will also be available to users of other browsers. Specifically, TweetDeck Web will work with Chrome, Firefox 3.6 and 4, as well as Safari. Support for IE9 and Opera is coming soon.

TweetDeck is obviously not the first Twitter client to go this route. Seesmic, for example, has been offering a web-based version of its client for a long time already. Just like Seesmic, TweetDeck’s web version will look very similar to the original desktop-based product. One major difference, however, is that it will no support Twitter streaming.

For now, this is a private beta only. Only whitelisted TweetDeck accounts will be able to access to the beta at this point. You can sign up to be whitelisted here.



8:40 am


Twitter Reacts to the #Dickbar Uproar: Not Killing It – Just Making it a Little Bit Less Annoying

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When Twitter launched the latest version of its iPhone app a few days ago, most users were more than happy to get auto-completion for names and hashtags, among many other improvements. The fact that Twitter now prominently featured the top trending topics in its app – including the promoted trends that Twitter gets paid for – was, according to many users, a major negative of this version and was seen as a sneaky way to push ads to users without delivering any additional value. Some, including the intrepid Apple-watcher John Gruber, even went as far as reverting back to an older backup of their iPhone to get the old version back.

Today, however, just as the complaints gained steam thanks to the #dickbar hashtag on Twitter itself (named after Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo), the company’s self-described “communications guy” Sean Garrett announced that Twitter had already submitted a new version of the app to Apple yesterday “that makes it so the quick bar doesn’t overlay on Tweets.”

While the fact that the quick bar was often blocking the view of some tweets was indeed annoying, the problem here is that the whole concept of the quick bar is annoying to begin with. Indeed, most of the complaints I’ve seen so far have more to do with the existence of the quick bar in the first place and not the way the trends were displayed.

Instead of just fixing this minor bug, Twitter should just make it either optional or giving users a way to pay for the app to make it go away. It’s understandable that Twitter wants to push promoted trends (though, of course, the fact that they have to be promoted means they aren’t really trends to begin with…). In a tweet he posted a short while ago, however, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo argued that giving users the option to turn this feature off would be an “inelegant implementation.” In other tweets, including this one directed at Robert Scoble, he  also argued that Twitter should have left the promoted tweets out of the quick bar.

The underlying problem here (more so than the inelegant implementation) seems to be that Twitter thinks there is value in seeing these trends, while for many users, they are simply useless reminders of the fact that there are a lot of Justin Bieber and Charlie Sheen fans on Twitter, too.

Alternatives

Of course, there are also multiple other Twitter clients for iOS that you could use if you don’t like the official ones. Among the best are the Seesmic app and Echofon.



7:27 pm


Twitter's Updated iPhone App Annoys Users With Unnecessary Focus on Trending Topics

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Twitter today launched an update to its iOS apps that brings lots of welcome new features (automatic shortening of links, autocomplete for usernames and easier photo uploads) but also puts far too much emphasis on trending topics in the iPhone app. Every time you scroll to the top of your stream on the iPhone, Twitter will now show you a trending topic at the top.

For Twitter, of course, this makes sense. After all, it sells promoted trends for good money (Google Hotpot bought a spot today, for example). For the most part, trending topics on Twitter tend to be dominated by celebrity gossip and Justin Bieber. It’s hard to see how this makes the app better, unless you really care about Charlie Sheen (trend: #tigerblood – no idea why…), the fact that it’s #Friday and that people care about #BYU, #iTunes and #Facebook.

Doing a search for “quick bar” on Twitter, it’s clear that most users feel this way. Sadly, Twitter doesn’t give users the ability to turn this “feature” off. In its own announcement, Twitter called the “quick bar” a “very cool update.” I beg to differ and hope that Twitter will either allow people to turn this off for free or sell an ad-free version soon.



2:30 pm


Twitter’s New Desktop App for the Mac: A Disappointment

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This morning, with the launch of the Mac App Store, Twitter also launched its new desktop app for the Mac. While the app is pretty, it’s missing too many essential features that serious Twitter users have become accustomed to. It also doesn’t keep up with the high standards that the official Twitter for iPhone and iPad apps have set over the last few months.

Don’t get me wrong, Twitter for Mac is a decent, lightweight client for those who only follow their closest friends and family members (and maybe a few celebrities), but it’s no replacement for clients like TweetDeck, HootSuite or Seesmic.

Twitter_for_mac.jpg

The Bad:

Here are a few examples of what I didn’t like about the app:
[list type=”red”]

  • What makes the Twitter for iPad app so great is that links open up in a third pane and don’t take you away from the app. Twitter for Mac does away with this. Clicking on a tweet in your timeline does absolutely nothing and clicking on links brings up your browser.
  • The app has amnesia. The moment you click away from the lists view, it will forget what list you were looking at before and you’ll have to click through to that list again.
  • Same thing for searches. Do a search and click away from it to see your direct messages, for example, and the app will have no recollection of what you just searched for when you click on the search button again. Annoying.
  • No button to start a new tweet? You have to either use the keyboard shortcut (and one of the nicest features is that the app allows you to set a global hotkey for new tweets) or click through the menu at the bottom of the screen to start a new tweet.
  • If there is a conversations view, it’s hidden away. I haven’t found it yet.
  • No support for third-party URL-shorteners? Seriously?
  • Clicking on a person’s avatar bring up a timeline, not the person’s profile.
  • I know I’m nitpicking now, but this is quite annoying as well: the minimalist interface makes it hard to drag the app across the screen. You have to find a spot on the sidebar to actually move the app around.
  • [/list]

    The OK:

    Not all is bad, of course. The app is lightweight, fast and new tweets happily scroll across your screen in real time. A global hotkey for sending new tweets is a nice feature as well. So is support for multiple accounts, which the app also handles quite nicely.

    Over on TechCrunch, Erick Schonfeld calls the app a “half-hearted attempt” – an apt description. For now, you won’t miss much if you stay away from it.



    11:32 am


    Google Puts Renewed Focus on Real-Time Search with New Social Search Test

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    Somehow I completely missed the fact that those blue “shared by” links on Google’s search results page that I started seeing a few days were new. Given the pace of the search giant’s development cycle, I have to admit that I’m sometimes actually rather confused about what’s new and what’s been around for a while on Google…

    But these “shared by” links are clearly new – and more and more people are now seeing them, too, so this seems to be more than just one Google’s many bucket tests and could be here to stay. These links tend to appear underneath links to news items in the OneBox news results section when you search for recent events. Another new feature is a live count of recent updates that now appears underneath the “Recent Updates” box when you search for keywords that are currently popular or trending on Twitter and Facebook.

    google_more_social.jpg

    All of this points to a new emphasis of real-time search results in Google. Over on Search Engine Land, Danny Sullivan speculates that Google could soon restrict these searches to just your friends, which is entirely possible and would make sense in light of Bing’s recent addition of more social features, but I actually find the new focus on real time more interesting. All of these new links, after all, point to Google’s real-time search feature, which was mostly hidden from sight until now. Instead of just pointing to a somewhat cryptically names “Updates” section in the sidebar, this new test actually explains that these updates come from “Twitter, MySpace, Facebook and more.”



    11:06 pm



    Embedding an Official Tweet Button (just for the sake of it)

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    Looks like Twitter is launching its own Tweet buttons later this week. While you can already embed the code (see below), not everybody can actually use the button to retweet the post yet.

    Just for the sake if it, I have embedded the code (courtesy of Mashable) here.

    I’m guessing we will see a new wave of discussions about Twitter’s relationship with third-party developers over the next week, as this move will likely put Tweetmeme (which is more well-known for its retweet buttons than for its core product) out of business in the long run. I know I wouldn’t invest in a Twitter-releated company at this point…



    8:21 pm


    15 Million Downloads Later: TweetDeck Turns 2

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    TweetDeck, the popular Twitter client, just celebrated its 2nd birthday. According to the company’s founder Iain Dodsworth, the TweetDeck desktop client has been downloaded 15 million times and the iPhone app has been downloaded 2.5 million times. Overall, TweetDeck now sends out 4 million tweets, Facebook status updates and Buzz messages every day.

    That, of course, is a major achievement for any company. Even more impressive, however, is the fact that TweetDeck is now 5 times larger than its closest competitor.

    Looking Ahead

    TweetDeck - (Build 20100625223402).jpg

    According to Dodsworth, Tweetdeck’s “mission is to help our users manage and harness these information flows. To that end, we are moving towards being truly multi-stream, re-building our clients from the ground-up with multi-stream functionality ingrained rather than simply bolting on new disconnected networks.”

    TweetDeck wants to be at the intersection of all of the multiple networks that its users use and ensure that it doesn’t make a difference on which network somebody says something.

    Of course, like many of its competitors, TweetDeck is also still looking to effectively monetize its service. For the time being, it still isn’t clear how TweetDeck plans tomonetize its service.

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    1:29 pm