Can Twitter Seize the Desktop?

Twitter is, I agree making a play for the desktop, but I'm not sure that Mashable’s Jennifer Van Grove is right when she contends the new interface “effectively makes Twitter desktop clients irrelevant in the long run.”

By making richer, for example adding the ability to view media like photos and video right on rather than going to the place the media live, Twitter wants to see more traffic to, see more people use it on the Web through a browser. The move has been characterized as a way to compete with Facebook. It would also, as Grove asserts, mean people use the browser instead of clients like Seismic or Hootsuite or Tweetdeck.
But is being more like Facebook the way to take it too Facebook? And will users give up their use of Seismic or Tweetdeck or Hootsuite?

Part of the brilliance of Twitter's launch and spread has been its open API, that it isn't a Web service that requires someone to even open a browser, but allows so many other applications and interfaces to attach to it. Each of the three interface applications above -- and a bevy of others -- provide special functionality and ways of using the service. Twitter has effectively crowdsourced product development, what businesspeople might call brand or line extensions of Twitter, coming up with new offshoots that enhance and update the product, and even (unlike a line extension, usually) make the original more valuable.

Many have already learned these clients, and come to rely on their functions. A Twitter exec, in making the announcement, noted that there is still not a way to manage multiple accounts with different logons from their interface, which is a significant business use of Twitter. My company often manages multiple accounts, and people working with us are in multiple locations. We sometimes want to cross-post, sometimes keep things separate. Services like Hootsuite and Co-Tweet also allow different kinds of permissioning, so someone can be allowed to Tweet from an account without having administrative access, can be centrally tracked, and also be de-permissioned.

OK, "the long run" pretty much gives an out. You can always say "we're not there yet." (I've done that myself, truth be told.) Maybe Twitter will incorporate the juiciest functionalities in its Web interface, or even buy some of the popular clients, and weave it all together. Maybe they'll somehow limit functionality of the API or take more control of it. Was it Biz Stone (I was listening, not watching) at the news conf yesterday who said that Twitter was also updating its back end functionality.

I don't doubt the validity of what Twitter is doing from their own business perspective. More people will use Twitter on, giving Twitter more access to their users, more ability to control the experience, and more ways to -- as others have noted -- serve them advertising. Twitter sees ads as being within the content stream, not separate from it, which is also smart from a business perspective. If I were a publisher or a marketer, I would pay attention, and make sure my material were showing up correctly on But I would also continue to keep my eye on the popular Twitter clients.

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