4 December 2008

Twitter + APIs > Pownce

This caught my eye(s) a few days ago. "Pownce Deadpooled, Team Moves To Six Apart" [ via Digg ]. Once you get past the snarky comments, you get to some of the basic analysis of whyitwentwrong: lackluster features, bad marketing, bad luck/no critical mass. When it was released, I felt a great sense of meh, and I still think it only got any attention because of the geekstar power of Kevin Rose. Just look at the Online social networking category at Wikipedia for a sampling of the field of battle. Of the 400+ listed (plus many subcategories that may-or-may-not contain relevant sites with equivalent features), and if we guess that half are fighting it out for this space, you'd think star power would be a prerequisite for survival. Not so.

I had originally hated on Pownce as a rehash of what everyone already used. My complaint may sound prescient ([it's] another hipster fad technology that will find a niche geek community and nothing else), but that could pretty much define every social networking site out there. I recently signed up for Facebook and find it lacking as a member for the same reason that I found it lacking as a non-member: there's no link in this sentence. A year or so ago, I signed up for Twitter. See? I understand people have different comfort levels w/r/t online privacy, so maybe open v. closed is the pivot point in the 20 Questions game that decides where people plant their social networking flag.

For me, a blog + Twitter does the job (for now). On Thanksgiving, it was nice getting a barrage of tweets from friends' Thanksgivings. Even the simplest message made you feel a little more connected to others not there. And getting ideas out (such as this) is primarily for my own benefit but made available to any others who care. Sometimes useful (music and tech), sometimes connective like a Twitter Thanksgiving. Right now, Facebook doesn't offer anything to me beyond forcing my manias onto a larger audience.

Facebook and MySpace are at their core--and to simply quote the definition of social networking--mechanisms for friends to connect asynchronously (for non-US, see Orkut, et al.). These sites have garnered the critical mass to assure newbies that (1) they'll have a guaranteed group of IRL friends as soon as they connect, (2) they'll get an adrenaline rush of finding long-lost friends-and-relatives, and (3) they'll be able to glom on 2nd-order FOAFs for fun gossip. Instant audience! Critical mass is a powerful thing and for those not otherwise connected the simplicity of joining these sites is compelling. With their wealth of features, Facebook and MySpace v. blogging are the opposite of the Pownce v. Twitter story. Pownce is (was) more orderly and featureful, whereas Twitter is barebones and just a little bit chaotic with extra stuff APIed on. A July 2007 article from Mashable.com bet on Twitter over several competitors, including a month-old Pownce, but felt that if Pownce added a rich API that it'd be a close race. Huh.

(Addendum: "Why Twitter Turned Down Facebook". Facebook tries to acquire Twitter and gets turned down. A Twitter co-founder is surprised by their popularity despite a lack of features (though Pownce is not mentioned)).

[ posted by sstrader on 4 December 2008 at 1:20:46 PM in Culture & Society ]