Tweetbot

After about a day of using Tweetbot, “I said”:https://twitter.com/manton/status/58723721728360448:

“Tweetbot gets nearly everything in the UI right. Love it. But.. it’s a basic client. I still think the future for third parties is features.”

I only got a few responses, most defending Tweetbot as something special. I agree, and there’s a lot to be inspired by from it. In an odd way, though, just being the best Twitter client isn’t enough.

“Marco Arment writes more”:http://www.marco.org/2011/04/18/ben-brooks-on-tweetbot (following a “post from Ben Brooks”:http://brooksreview.net/2011/04/appsuration/) about why Tweetbot isn’t for him despite being such a good client:

“A new Twitter client that essentially offers the Twitter app’s features, but in different places, isn’t enough of a difference for me to switch. If anything, it supports Twitter’s ‘don’t make full-featured apps’ position. Maybe they were right.”

The problem isn’t that third parties shouldn’t make full-featured clients; it’s that they shouldn’t make clients that have exactly the same features as every other client. If Twitter discourages all apps from being made just because many will fail, we’ll miss out on all the things Twitter will never add to their apps and platform.

I see three compelling reasons to use Tweetbot 1.0: the design, swipe for conversations, and related tweets. The last is actually in the Twitter API — I’ve been meaning to add it to Tweet Library — but it’s not yet documented outside of an email message to the dev mailing list. Congrats to Tapbots for being the first I’ve seen to add it as a high-profile feature.

Last September I wrote about “next-generation Twitter apps”:http://www.manton.org/2010/09/next_generation.html:

“I believe we’re about to see a third generation of clients that will go way beyond what the web site can do. There was worry when Twitter bought Tweetie that it would destroy the third-party Twitter market, and sure, some developers will fail or be discouraged from trying to compete against a free official product. But really what it does is raise the bar — that to succeed Twitter clients should be more than just a one-to-one mapping between UI and the Twitter API.”

I hadn’t announced Tweet Library yet when I wrote that. Now that I’ve shipped it, I believe even more strongly that we haven’t seen anything yet from Twitter apps. Tweetbot is a great 1.0 and my go-to app on the phone because it’s better in lots of small ways than anything else. But that it’s not for everyone is actually great news. I hope there are plenty of unique features still to come from a variety of other apps.

Consider this: Tweetie already “won” the market. No matter what we do as Twitter API developers, none of us can ever have the most popular Twitter app. This frees every app to focus on its core strength. For Twitterrific, that’s a unified timeline; for Echofon, that’s last-read sync; for Hibari, that’s keywords; for Kiwi, that’s themes; for my own Tweet Library, that’s curation.

What’s Tweetbot’s core strength? For now, overall user experience, not standout features. But I’ve been a Tapbots customer long enough that I’m excited to see where they take it.

For more Tweetbot discussion, check out “this collection of tweets I made”:http://tweetlibrary.com/manton/tweetbot1.0 about the launch.