With the launch of the private beta of Pownce, the new microblogging network launched by Digg celebrities Kevin Rose, Daniel Burka, and Leah Culver, people are claiming that it is the Twitter killer. After a somewhat heated debate with a friend, I’m not so sure that’s the case. At the present time, each microblogging platform has its pros … and its cons. Let’s look at the benefits to each and evaluate to see who is the victor.
Round 1: Interface.
Part A: Layout
Here’s my cute little public page on Pownce.
Compare that with my cute little public page on Twitter.
At first glance, Pownce is the clear winner. The interface is a lot more sleek than Twitter.
Layout Results: Pownce 1, Twitter 0
Part B: Layout Personalization
Let’s take a look at the layout functionality and personalization options.
Pownce doesn’t give you much customization options. You can only choose one of four available themes.
On the other hand, you can upload a background of your choosing to your Twitter page.
Essentially, you can customize the interface a lot on Twitter and let your page represent you a lot more than four predefined templates can. Within Twitter, you can add more personality to your page.
Layout Personalization Results: Pownce 0, Twitter 1
Part C: User Display
This is probably the most subjective element to my comparison between Twitter and Pownce. Allow me to present the friend display for both Pownce and Twitter and my conclusions.
When you look at a user’s friends on Twitter, they are displayed by avatar on the right hand navigation column as such:
You can click through and get more information about your friends by clicking on your Friends link.
Similarly, Pownce displays its users on the left hand navigation, though not in avatar format. This causes you to only be able to view 18 friends at once, and the order is not consistent, so with every refresh, your friends list is reordered.
As you can tell, once you view all your friends, the layout is similar to Twitter … except a critical element, last name, is lacking.
Therefore, I believe that Twitter has two things that Pownce is lacking: a way to view a lot more friends at once and the ability to see full names of friends.
User Display Results: Pownce 0, Twitter 1
Round 1 Results: Twitter 1, Pownce 0
Round 2: Speed
I’ve been a subscriber to Twitter since December of 2006. I signed up for Pownce on Saturday night. While it may be unfair to judge speed of Twitter versus Pownce at the present, there are two issues I’d like to bring up.
Twitter has suffered considerable downtime over the past few months. (Unfortunately, they got rid of their LOLcats error messages and replaced their downtime messages with a boring bird.) Pownce has had its own share of downtime (I’ve experienced it twice now), and while I can’t yet say if the downtime is comparable to Twitter, it is clear that Pownce, despite its expected downtime (as it’s still beta), is faster than Twitter. Twitter definitely still has scalability issues it needs to address.
Downtime Results: Pownce 1, Twitter 0
However, Twitter constantly refreshes its web page for users to get the recent tweets from friends. For Pownce, you need to manually refresh the web page to get the updates (Paul notes, however, that the application auto-refreshes itself). This means, then, that in terms of its web interface being consistently updated with information, Twitter delivers.
Frequency of Updates Results: Pownce 0, Twitter 1
Round 2 Results: Tie! Twitter 1, Pownce 1
Round 3: Messaging
Twitter is really all about showcasing the entire world (or one specific individual) what you are about. Pownce, on the other hand, lets you group friends into categories, or sets. Therefore, Pownce gives you four ways to message individuals: 1) private message to one recipieint; 2) to a set of friends; 3) to all your friends; 4) to the public. Since Twitter has only two options (and they’re not viewable on one screen — you have to go to a different screen to view your private messages), there’s a clear winner in this part of the competition.
Round 3 Results: Twitter 0, Pownce 1
Round 4: Finding friends.
Some people are not finding friends so easily. I happen to agree for now. You can search for friends, but there’s no way to know if your friends have joined the service. The best way to find friends on Pownce is to see if they’re already friends of your friends. But there is a friends search option as well, and it works pretty well.
Well, not totally:
It doesn’t take exact match:
And this search query seems to be too broad:
Either way, it’s functional enough for my needs, and right now, since it is in closed beta, you can find friends through friends — for the most part.
Twitter had a pretty effective way of finding friends, but they removed it. The next best thing is TwitterSearch, a third party application built on the Twitter API which really doesn’t make it easier to find people by last name.
Even though Michael Arrington says that it’s easier to find friends on Twitter, if you can’t easily search for them, there’s no benefit to having a more populated social network, is there?
Round 4 Results: Twitter 0, Pownce 1
Round 5: Accessibility
Do both Twitter and Pownce have Facebook apps? Yes. [Twitter / Pownce]
Do both Twitter and Pownce have SMS capability? No. Twitter allows text messaging to 40404, while Pownce is not mobile accessible. (It would be somewhat difficult to do via SMS, since you can choose one of four types of recipients, so I can somewhat see the reasoning behind that.)
Do both Twitter and Pownce have a mobile interface? No. Twitter does.
Do both Twitter and Pownce have desktop applications? Yes. Pownce’s is based on Adobe AIR, which is still in beta. Twitter has a bunch (and I mean a bunch) of third party applications.
I can easily say that Twitter, for the time being, is in first place for being accessible anywhere.
Round 5 Results: Twitter 1, Pownce 0
Round 6: Other Features
There are some other features that clearly distinguish the competition. The one obvious feature is Pownce’s ability to share files and URLs (without converting the URLs to urltea.com or tinyurl.com).
And of course, you can respond to a thread directly instead of cluttering your window with @username like on Twitter. With public messages (and no ability to filter these out on Twitter’s side right now), Twitter is noisier than Pownce.
The other difference Twitter has over Pownce is the ability to save messages as Favorites. It’s not frequently used by me (in fact, I’ve only created the screenshot below for illustrative purposes), but it’s handy nevertheless.
However, if I could choose the most useful feature, it would be URL and filesharing hands-down.
Round 6 Results: Twitter 0, Pownce 1
Round 7: Spam.
I’ve been whining on Twitter about the amount of spammers that are joining the service. It’s unfair to compare Twitter to Pownce on spam right now, since Pownce is brand new. Twitter was relatively responsive to a request of mine to block users who I never want seeing my status messages, and they implemented a block feature a few weeks later. But they haven’t easily made reporting spam that easy. On Pownce, however, you can report new friends as spam almost immediately.
(No, Danny is not spam.)
That makes Pownce a clear winner in terms of immediately addressing the spam issue before it gets out of hand.
Round 7 Results: Twitter 0, Pownce 1
FINAL SCORE: Pownce 5, Twitter 3. Pownce wins! Maybe Stan was right.
For an application that is still only in beta, Pownce is showing a great deal of promise. (As an added bonus, it finally allows us Digg users to communicate freely.)
The only requests I’d make for Pownce are:
1. There needs to be an easier way to arrange users into sets. Right now, it’s hard to figure out who is what, and I know I’m leaving users out of sets and not knowing where to put others. I’d like to be organized and categorize all my users into groups (distinct or overlapping groups are fine, but it should allow me to know who is in what group when categorizing them).
2. Remove the insane amount of email notifications that are enabled by default. I think the best thing is to only include friend requests. Don’t force people to opt out; let them opt in.