Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Rich Client Applications for Social Networks

I have been asking around about Rich Client Applications (i.e. a Windows or Mac application) as clients for Social Networks; Take these as an example: 

  • Fosimo: Minimalistic; key value (as I perceive it) is the proactive fetch of updates/messages and notifications. 
  • Facedesk: Basically a replication of the browser experience based in Adobe Air; IMHO not very original (doesn’t even refresh status updates dynamically). 
  • Tweetdeck:A different (better in my opinion) presentation paradigm for the Twitter stream; I use it all the time to focus on different sub-groups of all the individuals I follow. 
There are many more (see the list below; which is not comprehensive).. I can’t write all my thoughts on these, as this is a research I am doing for an specific client proposal; however I asked publicly and I believe in giving back and I am giving what I can here:   

I am surprised! Rich clients have been touted as important because of the computational power residing in the desktop/laptop and the superior presentation capabilities.. where are those applications that showcase these capabilities? I was expecting to find out I have been missing on much by mostly using browser clients; doesn’t seem like that.

What do you think? 
Filiberto Selvas

List of Rich client Applications for Social Networks: 

ScrapBoy (Orkut, Facebook, Myspace Client)
Twhirl (Twitter, Friendfeed and others )
Sociagami: (Facebook, Myspace, Twitter)
Fonebook (Keep Outlook Synch with Facebook)
Outsynk (same as above)


Phil Ayres said...

My personal opinion is that many common computer users have forgotten that software actually has to be installed to run on a laptop. AJAX apps have done a decent job of making browsers usable and appealing, and enterprise IT has locked down work desktops to save the headaches associated with personally installed applications.

And to be honest, despite being a savvy PC user myself, I'm hesitant to install untrusted thick client software on my PC due to the security risk (and the fact that I'm so untrusting of Windows ability not to slow to a crawl).

I use Tweetdeck, and must say I think it works well. But really, for the number of people I follow, the Tweetie iPhone app is equally effective for me (the presentation and scrolling actually makes it easier for me than Tweetdeck, where I spend longer trying to position my mouse exactly over the scroll arrow). Rich clients need to work amazingly to be worth the effort.

Reality is, I think, that you can mashup browser components nice and easily. Rich clients need paid for SDKs and an understanding of the proprietary development environment. Until Adobe Air just flattens Silverlight (or vice versa) I don't really know whether adoption among average Joe Hacker will really happen.

Be interested in seeing more of your thoughts...


Filiberto Selvas said...

You make good points; here a few comments of my own and a couple counterpoints:
>>I know of more than one company that would feel deeply troubled if what you wrote above is indeed a pervasive reality: “many common computer users have forgotten that software actually has to be installed to run on a laptop.”

>>I agree with you Ajax apps have done a “decent” job; but there is a considerable gap between that and “an amazing job”; I find it interesting we have no takers to fill that gap? Particularly among the major SN themselves.

>>The challenges of IT blocking apps from being installed and limited Social Networks APIs are very valid points; on the later (as I state above) I am surprised major SN themselves have not tried to make progress in this space at all.

Thanks again for taking the time to read and provide these thoughtful comments.


Phil Ayres said...

Hmm, good point. I suppose I would trust a social network provided rich application. Now getting the IT team to install it up front is the next challenge, though once the business understands the value of social networks to their employees productivity this I'm sure would happen pretty fast!

So the block probably is just that the rich apps are doing a bad job of making their benefits known (where they have them) and need a little buzz to get picked up.

Nice post!

Anonymous said...

Here is some info to help you out Filiberto:

I like AlertThingy (didn't see it on your list)

Sobees is also useful, but is a pain to install.

UserPlane has tried to desktop applications without much success.

Yoono is a browser app, but worth mention.

Snackr.net is a newer desktop based RSS / SN aggregator.

There are plenty of social desktop aggregation / access services, but the primary problem is getting past the hesitancy to install software. There is a severe adoption drop in web browser vs browser plugin vs desktop install. Each level has another drop in usage/penetration.

I do believe that there are many desktop services that can be tied into an amazing app, but too many services are focusing on web aggregation instead of applying brainpower to the amount of information that can be aggregated from the desktop.

Gist and Xobni are both good examples of companies delving into the inbox connection for social networking. They both offer some amazing features for Outlook.

Filiberto Selvas said...

Thanks Barry!

I think you and Phil hit the nail on the head on these:

1) The hesitation to install anything; or simply the fact that your computer may be locked by IT

2) The sub-standard or capabilities available through exposed APIs (walled garden anyone?)

3) Missed opportunity to leverage the Desktop/Laptop "Brainpower"