Blogging began as a very personal exercise. People, like you and I would make frequent journal entries and put them online for the world to see. Then we started linking to each other’s home pages, forming a network. These were the twilight days of blogging. Twitter was similarly birthed and just like blogging, it has blossomed early in its age. The reason why Twitter has become so big today is pretty obvious: People don’t have the time or the patience to post long, detailed entries with regularity on their blogs. Or to sustain this kind of content for a long period of time. Visitors to these blogs, similarly, don’t have the patience to read what’s written. The solution was to shorten the size of the blog and have them updated more frequently — every day or every few hours, an exercise termed micro-blogging.
Social networking sites such as Facebook offer a similar feature through their status field — what are you up to, how do you feel, these ask. One might wonder — why not use these offerings instead of Twitter? Simplicity is a large reason, plus microblogs tend to fill up one’s profile pages; micro-blogging is a simpler and a more elegant solution. Of course Facebook offers applications that let you bridge the gap with other micro-blogging services...
In India, Twitter has taken off surprisingly well. People use Twitter on their mobile phones and constantly post updates. There are regular Twitter meets — by the users and for the users, across the breadth of the country. The details of these meets are of course tweeted in real-time by people at the event. Photos are also posted on Twitter and other social networking sites. Twitter is being used for up-to-date news updates on some international channels. Discussions take place in real-time too.
The exercise of micro-blogging is fun and useful but our question is — is Twitter the only one? Of course not. Like any other good idea, there are alternatives; many have offered their own micro-blogging services. Here, we take a look at some of these services; you are sure to find one that will tempt you to leave Twitter behind, even if for a while.
Plurk was launched in mid-2008 and is considered by many to be one of Twitter’s biggest competitors. Plurk’s distinctive, colorful profile page, is easy to identify. Plurk’s interface shows a timeline of all the posts that a user makes. Like tweets in Twitter, the posts in Plurk have been called “plurks”. The user-interface is more colorful and user-friendly. The user has a lot more features to play around with. The timeline interface means you can use the mouse and slide the timeline around or use the scroll to move on to any period in order to read posts. It’s simpler than having to going back a page at a time, like on most other services.
Plurk has a rating system called Karma. The service gives the user more karma points if he or she updates the profile information or posts often on Plurk. The perks are increase in Karma points and also access to more emoticons through the service. Karma points can also be lost if you don’t post, or if you spam users. This is a good way to prevent spamming of messages and at the same time encourage an active community.
Posts can be made using a mood or an action, instead of just plain text messages. Plurk even lets you choose which group of users can read your posts. Like Twitter, Plurk too has support for posting from mobile phones so that you can post while you aren’t on your PC. There’s even the integration for Twitter, so your posts on Plurk are posted on Twitter simultaneously.
Everything you do in Plurk is interactive. This is what makes it so great, and also unnecessarily complex. Twitter is great for simple text messages but if you want to add lots of content, have lots of toys to play with, Plurk will definitely interest you.
So we’re looking at alternatives to Twitter. What if you want to use Twitter and all the other blogging services at the same time? Ping.fm might be the one for you. It’s a slightly different kind of micro blogging service. It acts as a junction through which to post updates to other social networking sites using its simple interface. Almost every social networking has a current status field. Ping.fm can connect to all of them and update them simultaneously.
Registration on Ping.fm is one of the simplest you’ll find. Simply enter your e-mail address and a password for the account you are about to setup. The next page shows a huge list of some 50 social networking sites. This list covers Twitter, Plurk and even Facebook. You can choose the ones where you have accounts and enter the authentication information for the same. There are plenty of Ping.fm applications for various platforms which make posting even simpler. One of the other unique features is the chatbots that Ping.fm has on instant messenger services. Users can send instant messages to these bots to update their status on other micro-blogging sites.
It’s simple — if you have an account on several micro-blogging sites and you want to post on each one of them, simply get a Ping.fm account and link it to all the services. You won’t have to visit any other site again.
Jaiku is a micro-blogging service owned by Google since 2007. Jaiku is almost as simple and identical to Twitter. If at all, it’s a slightly prettier looking interface than Twitter’s. The features are also almost identical. There are channels for users to access and have a discussion. Replies to posts made by others are done in the same page itself rather than posting through your profile page in a forum-styled text area.
Jaiku has badges that can be embedded into personal web pages or sites. Customizing the profile page is also available for all users. A background color can be selected and also the background image. Similar to Ping.fm, updates can be sent to the service through chat bots via instant messengers. Messages can be sent and updates received through a mobile phone. Another very similar service is Identi.ca. It’s a free and open micro blogging service that runs on backend software called Laconica.
Tumblr offers an impressive interface as well, but it’s not as flashy as Plurk. There is a main dashboard, which displays all the options to the user — to post a photo, text, chat, audio, video, and so on. Tumblr has taken the components of micro-blogging services and have added on all the functionalities that you would expect from a complete blog service, on to it. Tumblr includes a schedule function which you can use to set a day when the post should be published on your blog. Another impressive feature of Tumblr is the ability to dial a US number and posting an audio blog post using a phone call.
Tumblr is a great service for you if posting images is what you want to do. For those who want to post plain text messages, Tumblr is an overkill. It even displays a list of popular bloggers under different categories. Tumblr has a huge collection of customized themes. It gives the user a sub-domain as well so others can easily access their profile.
Indian Micro Blogging Services
Blogging has caught the attention of Indian entrepreneurs and there are a couple of micro-blogging services aimed at Indians. One of them is Dil Khol Ke Bol (www.dilkholkebol.com). It is more than just a micro-blogging site — the service offered is a mix of multiple blogging sites. Dil Khol Ke Bhol has a larger text message limit than other services and also offers the option for users to upload images, videos and audio to the site. The interface might seem bland but it’s a good place for people within the country to congregate. SMSGupShup (www.smsgupshup.com) is an Indian mobile micro-blogging site. Other than the usual set of features of downloading content and getting updates, users can also send messages directly to the site using a mobile phone. Users can also add members or join groups of users by sending SMS
Choosing a micro blogging service is like choosing an instant messenger service — you’ll always want to have as many friends as possible on a single network. Twitter seems to be doing well at that. Other services have to try harder to attract users to them. With each service trying to setup a bridge between others, it’s possible to post on one service and automatically have it replicated on others. Ping.fm lets you do just this. The solution you pick then depends on what you want out of such a service — there are options plenty, you just need to make a choice and get (micro)blogging!