Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: Revisiting Twitter.app

For the last month of so, I’ve been using Twitter’s official apps for iPhone, iPad and Mac. I’ve used Tweetbot for years, but as Twitter has continued to hamstring third party clients, I can’t help but think that sooner or later, the company will pull the plug on them altogether.

I have found the experience of Twitter’s official apps to be a pretty mixed bag. One on hands, I can see polls and create threads easier than ever, and when I’m in the mood to see what’s trending, the experience is much richer than in Tweetbot.

As someone who has their DMs open, this experience is also better in Twitter’s apps. Not only do push notifications work instantly, but Twitter will separate out “Requests,” or DMs from people you don’t follow. This has caught a fair bit of spam or other messages that would just be right in-line in Tweetbot.

…aaaaand that’s about all the upsides I can think of in switching to the Twitter app.

For me at least, I don’t like how Twitter constantly wants to switch me to its algorithmic timeline. Throwing the switch to view latest tweets first wouldn’t be a big deal if it would actually stick. If I haven’t looked at my timeline in a few days, it always reloads with what Twitter wants to show me first, not what is newest.

I also dislike how a reply from someone I follow will re-insert the original tweet (or thread) into the timeline. I much prefer to see replies to other people in-line. If I want to see the conversation, I’m fine tapping to see what’s going on. I don’t necessarily want to see so much chatter between the 431 accounts I currently follow. I can’t imagine what this must be like for people who follow thousands of accounts.

The third strike against Twitter’s apps is what Twitter thinks I should care about. I personally have very little need to see who liked or retweeted a specific tweet, but Twitter wants to put that front and center in its notifications area.

The fourth strike — YES JASON I KNOW THERE ARE ONLY THREE STRIKES IN BASEBALL JUST LEAVE ME ALONE — is that the Twitter apps are just kind of … bad. The phone app is the best of the three, but on the iPad, its layout is laughable. Why can I see so few tweets on a 11-inch iPad?

iPad Twitter is bad.

The Mac app famously is a Catalyst version of the iPad version, and as such, it carries with it a lot of weird things like iOS-specific language and settings. The team behind the app has done a lot of work cleaning this up in the months since it launched, but it still feels way too much like an iPad app on the Mac.

It’s been buggy in various ways since launch, but as I write this, trying to view a Periscope live stream in the app, it just crashes. Which is fun.

It makes me sad that I think the time is ticking on the likes of Tweetbot and Twitterrific, given that Twitter seems fine with giving some of its most loyal users a mediocre user experience, driven by big data. I know I’m in the minority, but I’ll be sad when I’m forced to use Twitter’s own apps for the service.

[Stephen Hackett is the author of 512 Pixels and co-founder of Relay FM.]


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