Twitter vs. Pownce: Who Pwns?

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.

Pownce User Interface

Compare that with my cute little public page on Twitter.

Twitter User Interface

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.

Pownce: Theme Chooser

On the other hand, you can upload a background of your choosing to your Twitter page.

Twitter: Theme Chooser

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:

Twitter Friends

You can click through and get more information about your friends by clicking on your Friends link.

Twitter Friends Expanded

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.

Pownce Friends

As you can tell, once you view all your friends, the layout is similar to Twitter … except a critical element, last name, is lacking.

Pownce Friends Expanded

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.

Pownce: Friend Search - Effective?

Well, not totally:

It doesn’t take exact match:

Pownce Friend Search: Exact Match - Nope!

And this search query seems to be too broad:

Pownce Friend Search: 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).

Pownce: Filesharing Rocks!

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.

Twitter: You can save Favorites

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.

Pownce: Easy Spam Reporting

(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.

42 Comments

  • Kristee says:

    Thanks, this was a very helpful evaluation. I just discovered twitter, signed up and now pownce is out. I really didn’t know what to make of it. Do you think you will eventually choose one over the other or manage both?

    Kristee

  • That’s a much harder question. I don’t know if it’s time to predict what social network I’ll end up choosing in the end: as both networks are inherently “social,” it will probably be where my friends end up going. If one gets too noisy or too spammy, I might choose the other … or I’ll learn to deal with both networks as I continue to learn how to manage my time on multiple social networks.

    Maybe there will be a third party application that will help manage multiple identities with ease. I know people are already hoping for a program that will integrate these microblogging accounts into one. I bet it will happen in due time.

  • You left out probably the biggest advantage to Twitter. The ability to receive your messages to your mobile. Since Pownce doesn’t offer this option I can only use Pownce when I’m at the computer. To me that is clearly a Twitter advantage in the messaging department.

  • Matthew: that’s there, under Round 5:

    “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.)”

    That’s clearly the biggest advantage to Twitter indeed.

  • Nick Schmidt says:

    I still think Prownce is a lot slower than Twitter, especially when you try to display something.

    Plus I don’t understand why either of them allow you to log into your email accounts to search your friends by email? DUH!! They should do it.

  • Noah Mittman says:

    I’ve written up my own thoughts (http://www.teradome.com/posts/pownce-vs-twitter) but you hit the point — one is a messaging system, the other is a sharing system. They’re not mutually exclusive terms, but they are different activities once you really get into them as a power-user.

  • I just have so many people who already use Twitter! It’s like myspace (that I never really use myspace), Twitter was there and caught on with the masses.

    Even Leo Leporte tried to lead the 1000′s of his followers to Jakoususue???? I for one didn’t go, and well… I’m certainly not alone…. And well, those who did follow, now use BOTH that J-whatever and Twitter.

    I think Twitter will continue to develop over time and it will add more functionality. It’s pretty “basic” but at least it’s not “ugly” like myspace.

    My wife is NOT a tech head at all. But she twitters ALL DAY LONG. Heck, she even has friends who don’t own a computer who get her tweets on their cell phones… (thanks to us setting them up an acct and adding their phone to accept twitter sms).

    For me, Twitter wins because I’m simply too lazy to move and be an evangelist for people to leave twitter and come follow me somewhere else.

    Oh hey, my wife just posted that she has just finished pre-cooking our 17th dinner in her once a month cooking spree.

    I LOVE TWITTER!

    ;)

    Cliff
    gspn.tv

  • Sean Reiser says:

    Like others I’ve written up my thoughts on the twitter vs. pownce debate here. I’d also like to point out the lack of an API on pownce’s side to be a major drawback. Part of twitter’s charm has been apps like twitterview, twittfeed, etc.

  • Sean: definitely. That’s why Twitter wins in the apps department. But even so, Pownce already has a Facebook app that was written by Jake Jarvis, a truly talented high school kid. :)

  • Dave says:

    @Tamar:

    I still got no pownce-account so i must ask you this little question here:

    There are some other features that clearly distinguish the competition. The one obvious feature is Pownces ability to share files and URLs.

    Is only 1 url per message possible? What if posting more than 1 into the form? Thanks, Dave

  • Dave – yes, it appears that this is the case (at least in the Link sharing field). You can still reply with links, but there is no textarea to do so once your message is posted.

    By the way, my husband has a few available invites — so if you drop me an email through the contact form, I could hook you up.

  • Montse says:

    The other major advantage of Twitter over Pownce is ease of use. You don’t need an invitation to try it whereas with Pownce you do. I think that is a huge turn off for many people. A lot of my pals won’t bother with Pownce for that reason and I am one of them. If you want me to use your service, make it easy. If not, keep the beta group private. We are living in an age where products and services are on-demand and the invitation thing is totally ridiculous.
    Twitter wins.

  • Montse, you have a valid point, but the invitation-only phase seemed to have been necessary considering Pownce is still dealing with downtime issues and adding features per user request. If the beta group was closed but friends couldn’t invite friends, then there’d be no benefit to using Pownce because friends couldn’t network with each other. The service will open to the public in due time. But I understand why it needed to be private while they iron out any problems.

    And I still have invites available, which you can have your friends jump upon. Every user gets 6 invites, so you have the potential to get 6 friends who can add another 36 people.

  • missb says:

    Excellent comparison. Two things keep me a twitterslave.

    1. That’s where all my folks are.
    2. I use twitter most via SMS.

    I tried Jaiku for a brief period during an extended twitter downtime a couple of months ago and never returned. Twitter is dead simple and does only one thing. Sometimes it doesn’t even do that one thing well– or at all– but I don’t care. I like the 140 character limit best of all. Jaiku’s got feeds and messages and links and photos and threads and ENOUGH already!Yikes! It was too much being hurled at me, and I’ve already got a feedreader busting at the seams with stuff I haven’t gotten to. I don’t need more distraction from my day than 140 characters of what someone else has to say.

    Pownce? It’s pretty. But again, it does too much. And those emails!? Oh, that ticked me off. And why on Earth would they think that a star-rating system was necessary? I don’t like that. I have enough insecurites without having people rate my snippets.

    The only things I would like to see twitter do to make it perfect would be threaded direct responses to tweets (with an option to make the response private) instead of going to a different page to see direct messages, or at least allowing a certain number of characters (say 10?) to compensate for the loss of using the @name feature. Some people have long names! And some kind of link feature would be handy for the same reason.

    I loves me twitter.

  • Brian Shaler posted a video and later in the vid some of the not very well thought out things in pownce, such as not even making it work with IE6.

    Ya ya, you say…We all use Firefox, but that’s not the point. For a website to overlook 1/2 of what many people use is not smart web design.

    Check out the example here:
    http://www.viddler.com/explore/brianshaler/videos/8/

    Adam N

  • Adam: Good point. I had a friend complaining to me last night that he couldn’t get Pownce to work on IE. He’s a tech guy like us, but he worked for Microsoft… enough said. They definitely need to make it cross-browser compliant.

  • Mark B says:

    So is email dead or did I miss something? I use IM and email to do accomplish everything that Pownce does AND I don’t have to create yet another account to waste my time monitoring… Am I missing something?

  • Email is email. It’s been around for decade. Pownce is inherently social, whereas email is not, at least not in the same ways as Pownce and other blossoming social networks.

    Obviously, people will see it in different ways, but I do blog about social networking, which Pownce very well is, and blogging about email just bores me. :P

  • Sebastian says:

    Hi Tamar, your excellent article saved yours truly a lot of time. Thanks :)

  • Kit Kat 4 Me says:

    Wow. Your right. I have a Twitter and a Pownce. and i agree fully with everything you said! ^_^

  • Kit Kat 4 Me says:

    Oh yah and to Pownce. It would be nice to be able to reply in the app. It would make things sooo much easier!!

  • Although Pownce seems to have a more beautiful and clean interface, I think twitter keeps more focus on what’s it was made for. You have less disruptive paths to follow, basically it shows you the happy path with no two-million beautiful boxes that Pownce gives. I mean, the more choices and options you have, the less clear is what it is intended to do at one application. Pownce has this beautiful interface, but it clutter functionalities that aren’t essential and confuses me. That’s why I think Twitter turns it almost immediate figuring out what’s it for and how to deal with it. And Pownce doesn’t really do it.

  • Bruno: very true. I’ve been realizing that too and am considering a follow-up to this story that covers some of these points.

  • John says:

    Great article! I like pownce a lot better… one issue not brought up here though is size of the network… which was one of the big reasons I have both…!

  • ajit says:

    Hi there. I just now came across this article. I am a user of both Twitter and Pownce and don’t think a comparison between the two really works. To me it’s like comparing a window to a door. They are both on a house, but which one is better?

    We created a new site for people who miss Pownce called Schmownce (http://schmownce.com).

    Also, I wrote this article, which I think is a more useful comparison: ajitfoldsfive.tumblr.com/post/71266576/what-was-the-deal-with-pownce

  • Ajit, your comment is a bit misleading and makes me wonder if you’re just looking to build traffic to your new site and blog post.

    “I am a user of both Twitter and Pownce…”

    Are you really an active user of Pownce? It closed down months ago, which you somewhat acknowledge later in your comment when you advertise your new site.

    Note how my article was written in 2007. Yes, I do feel that your comparison at this point is a moot point and your determination that your post provides a “more useful comparison” is also rather pointless at this stage of the game. That said, I edited your link so it’s not clickable.

  • thats great that you are talking about the twitter api,a good example of searching with the twitter api is on twiogle.com because you can search on twitter and google at the same time.

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