Twitter clients (and why they suck)


I got “A review of different Twitter clients” by Anonymous suggestion in my Skribit widget.

I am going spin this a bit for two reasons:

  1. There are too many clients to produce quality review covering most of them.
  2. My feelings for current state of clients for Twitter are very far from positive.

So what makes good micro blogging client and why there aren’t any?




Twitter updates come in form of timeline. Recent stuff is close and visible, older stuff is pushed into oblivion. It works great if you are only interested in fresh updates, what if you are interested in all of them?

I just woke up and I want to know what my contacts had tweeted in last few hours. That’s not how Twitter is supposed to be used, you say? Well that’s how I want to use it. I care about information from hour ago as much as from minute ago. Passing time doesn’t make it less valuable.

Twitter clients replicate timeline instead of expanding it. Twitter paradigm is fixed on official site. It doesn’t have to be fixed in third party clients but it is.

  • I want an insight-capable tool.
  • I get pretty copies of what official web-site can do anyway.

User extensions

Simple and flexible nature of Twitter allowed rapid progress of user extensions. Most notable are re-tweets and hash tags. Both give you glimpses of content outside of your network.

Official Twitter ignores user extensions. It is consistent with focusing on core function and creates open field for clients to fill the gap. Clients fill the gap by adding re-tweet button (to save few clicks) and some are even powerful enough to link hash tag to Twitter search.

  • I want a tool capable of looking outside of my network as easily as inside.
  • I get tiny, hard to press buttons and links to search tool (I don’t need client to use).


Twitter updates are simple, however they have excellent metadata:

  • time when update was made;
  • client update was made with;
  • person and tweet replies are made to.

Twitter stuffs these in same timeline paradigm – how long ago, etc. These can be used in extremely creative ways. Show me what my contacts tweeted this morning (their morning, not mine). Show me who is torturing his iPhone on the go, show me who is sitting at desktop with cup of tea. Show me if person threw update in a hurry or ready to reply and talk.

  • I want a tool that improves factor of being aware about people around.
  • I get copy/paste function from native site (at best).


Twitter updates are same in form but different in content and purpose:

  • lifestream;
  • conversations;
  • information sharing;
  • offline events coverage;
  • syndication of other services;
  • and much more.

So why are so excitingly various things brutally lumped together?

  • I want a tool that can pick apart going to shower and trying new software.
  • I get timeline (again).

Interface experience

Twitter API allows easy client development. Which leads to using high-level frameworks. Which leads to unreadable and inflexible resource hogs.

Twitter clients like bright glossy looks (good for hype and screenshots) and user has no say here. They are not shy to consume hundred megabytes of memory to display half page of text. They favor rows of tiny buttons that can be lost under mouse cursor and require a lot of hovering for tooltips all the time.

  • I want fast, portable tool with customizable (if not fitting my taste) looks;
  • Most of those can’t even change damn text font size.


Am I being overly negative? Some Twitter clients work just fine for me:

  • I am happy with simple and effective Mauku on N810;
  • Opera widget saves me browser tab;
  • twhirl is not too bad at home desktop.

But am I finding innovative, awesome clients that bring my Twitter experience to next level? Nope.

Related Posts


  • Angelo R. #

    I'm in agreement with you there Rarst, except that I'm more concerned about what was said TO me in the last few hours, to make sure that I didn't miss anything. For that reason, I rely on TweetDeck. It adds the search hash functionality that I need to stay on top of things, while also looking great. The only thing is, you have to devote some time to using TweetDeck as it's almost full-screen. So if I start it up, I use it for about an hour or two straight, then pop it down again for a later time.
  • Rarst #

    @Angelo You mean @replies? They are pretty easy to work with natively. I also use RSS feed from search to catch those that mention me without being replies technically. search.twitter.com/search?q=rarst+-from%3Ararst I tried TweetDeck but interface restrictions are bordering stupid. Columns with fixed width? Tiny buttons? No way to open create second timeline column (for different filter)? Clear messages to have them reappear on next start? It is one of the more functional clients and may shape into good one in the future. In current state it's beta and too raw.
  • Calvin #

    I actually made that suggestion - I guess I've been testing Skribit so much, that I didn't realize I wasn't logged in anymore. I'm using EventBox right now. It does most of the same things that TweetDeck does, but doesn't start off over 100MBs like TweetDeck and almost all other AIR-based twitter client does. But I agree with you, I like to see a twitter client that tries to push the envelope somewhat.
  • Rarst #

    @Calvin Happens. :) I had seen EventBox mentioned few times but hadn't tried cause it's mac toy.
  • Himanshu #

    I agree with Calvin, Tweetdeck relies of lot of RAM usage but it is very good iff you don't want to be dependent on online user interface. Also you can try Twitterfox if you use Firefox
  • Rarst #

    @Himanshu Tweetdeck is no good - for me. It does make a step further than other clients but it is so full stupid limitations (change column width? open two columns?) and usability problems (those rows of tiny buttons are just terrible). It's perfectly fine for beta product but it's not at stage worth such hype it is getting. Firefox for me is something Firebug runs on. :) Actually lately I mostly use twhirl - has its share of problems but one of more usable clients. And Mauku of course (on N810).
  • Angelo R. #

    Oh very nice on having the 810! I have a Bold myself and I've been meaning to add the IM client to it. I think I'd use it a lot more than any desktop application. the problem I find with desktop applications, is that since they use some screen real-estate, you have to focus time FOR them. I want twitter to be something I can pull up, quickly update/grab info and then I need it to disappear while I work on things.
  • Rarst #

    @Angelo Yeah, N810 is quite a device. :) See couple of related posts from me: https://www.rarst.net/tag/n810/ I am trying to find time and do a full review, been using it for two+ months already. Lately I keep reading that people are considering moving IM stuff from desktop to mobile devices. Some of those like N810 and blackberries (I think, not much of these around here) are completely designed with text messaging in mind and it shows.