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July 11, 2009

Seesmic's Web Offering Is the Best Twitter Browser Interface Yet

Since reversing the company's strategy away from short video clips and more toward the world of status updates, Loic Le Meur and the Seesmic team have forged ahead in working to deliver a strong alternative to TweetDeck, letting Twitter and Facebook users update their status, view friends' updates and manage their social networking accounts from their desktop - complete with multiple account support, multiple columns, and all the standard features you would expect, from profile viewing to direct messages and search. Yesterday, at the TechCrunch CrunchUp event, Loic demonstrated not just a new version of Seesmic Desktop, but also a Web version that operates completely in the browser. And guess what? It's good - easily the best Web interface I've seen for Twitter yet.


The new Seesmic Web interface (Click for full version)

For those Web-addicted souls who spend a good deal of their day buried in Twitter, seeing their friends updates and exchanging conversations, most software options have required the installation of Adobe AIR software, which to date has whirred your CPU to life, turning on laptop fans, and chewing through memory. The work to throttle down load on RAM and CPU is a constant battle, which both Loic's team and Iain Dodsworth of TweetDeck have been working on since their products debuted.

In contrast, logging into the new Web version of Seesmic doesn't feel like you've sacrificed your computer power to get your Twitter fix, and you don't give up features either.

To get started, go to http://seesmic.com/app/ and connect to Twitter, using OAuth.


Two Columns Displayed In Seesmic Web

Like the standard Twitter interface, Seesmic displays the "Timeline" of your friends updates, but it offers multiple columns, customized as you wish. And since you have logged in to Twitter, you even get the saved searches you may have added to the site, but displayed on Seesmic. Like with TweetDeck, you can add multiple columns to display in parallel, and can add as many as you like. As you add more, you will need to scroll to see them all. On my standard 1440 pixel width setting on my 15-inch MacBook Pro, I was able to see almost three full columns - usually sticking with the public timeline, Mentions (the new name for replies) and a saved search.


Collapsing Updates in Seesmic Web

Seesmic has done more than just clone its Desktop version in the browser. The new service has a new feature that collapses updates into a single line, looking like the headline-only version of Gmail or Google Reader, essentially letting you see more updates than ever before in one place. Also, clicking on Direct Messages brings all the DMs to the fore, so you won't get confused and think one conversation is public while another is private. In fact, there is a toggle at the top left of the screen between "Home" and "Messages", with Messages getting you to your DMs. Like with Tweetie, the DMs are organized by individual and you can see how many messages are in each conversation.

Interestingly, in talking with Loic about the introduction yesterday, he said many people believe a download version of the product is more "robust" than a Web version, and there has needed to be some evangelizing for this new introduction to be accepted. As he said, they ask, "Where is the download?". But there's no download needed for this one. You could get the AIR app, which was also upgraded yesterday, but it's the Web one that I'm going to keep using. After getting used to my computer overheating any time I tried to run Seesmic Desktop or TweetDeck, the simple, clean and quiet interface of Seesmic on the Web makes it a strong contender for my Twitter usage going forward. I know a great deal of my Twitter activity comes from FriendFeed, but for when I want to dabble in the 140 character world, the new offering is very solid.