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Plurk takes on Twitter, Pownce

Plurk is what happens when Twitter fails to innovate. Plurk isn’t just about status updates, but all those other things we say and do too, in an interactive time line that’s fun, visual and instant…

Plurk logoPlurk is what happens when Twitter fails to innovate. Plurk isn’t just about status updates, but all those other things we say and do too, in an interactive time line that’s fun, visual and instant…

Yesterday saw Blah explaining what Plurk is. Todays article is all about how Plurk relates to the big two big micro-blogging platforms, Twitter and Pownce.

After just using Plurk for a few minutes, both Kate & I could feel the same sense of relief, as if the developers were as frustrated with Twitter as we were and felt compelled to develop a better version of Twitter. In some ways, Plurk is just that, but there’s much more besides.

It’s still very early days and in terms of user numbers Plurk trails significantly behind both Twitter and Pownce. But it’s very easy to see how Plurk will appeal to those people who don’t understand the interest that surrounds Twitter.

Irrespective of what all the naysayers are going to tell you, had Twitter and Plurk been released at the same time, Twitter wouldn’t have gotten a second look. As it is, that’s not the case.

Ironically, had this been a couple of years hence, when OpenID and oAuth were more established, being able to shift your profile from one service to another would be very simple, aiding adoption of Plurk no end. As it is, that’s not the case, either.

Plurk: just another Twitter clone?

You’d be forgiven for thinking Plurk is just another Twitter clone. But once you’ve played around for a while, such ideas are quickly dispelled.

The way in which you interact with other people on Plurk is something else. Almost every single time you post a reply on someone else’s Plurk message, your message appears on the time line of all those people that are friends with the person who posted the Plurk. Yes, similar to Twitter, but with Plurk, you see everything in real time.

In months past, people have tried and failed to conjure up Twitter versus Pownce face-offs. Twitter and Pownce exist for very different reasons. However, that’s not the case with Twitter versus Plurk.

From talking to those people that don’t get Twitter, the thing they don’t see the point of is the whole status updates suspended in complete isolation of the activities themselves.

That was always the point I got caught out with, but then Twitter works if you’re something of a social media maven like I am and you use Twitter to tease, offering up succulent morsels of information about up-coming articles or ideas, spread out over a few hours, to generate a little buzz.

In the beginning, I had only good things to say about Twitter. Then I became very annoyed with Twitter, moving more of my activities towards the micro-blogging platform Pownce, which made sense for someone like me, who couldn’t always squeeze something important into 140 characters or less.

For me personally, the big problem with Twitter is people not heeding the very question asked of them the moment they sign in: “What are you doing?” Plurk sidesteps that question completely, allowing you to say whatever the hell you like, with the same character limit as Twitter.

Sounds random, but so are people. And even though such banality really does go against the grain with me, the mundane seems to win out.

Back in late January, Automattic released a template for WordPress called Prologue. The idea was to create a Twitter-esque layer to a template, allowing teams to collaborate.

Little has been heard of Prologue since, but the idea of Prologue was good, even the execution was little more than a fenced off Twitter clone. What’s interesting is that Plurk takes on that idea of groups (which in Plurk parlance are called Cliques) to do much the same thing, but with more options, such as support for Flickr and YouTube, all of which brings Plurk curiously close to Pownce territory, but in a highly interactive way that’s delivered in near real time.

The major problem faced by any social network is gaining users. Fortunately for Plurk, the timing couldn’t have been any better, what with Twitter and Pownce suffering such prolonged and at time agonizing periods of down time. People are more willing to try something new.

So in answer to the question: is Plurk just another Twitter? No, it’s not. Plurk is what Twitter should have been had they kept moving forward.

Optimized for the masses

Quite recently, both Pownce and Twitter have been performing very poorly, with lots of intermittent down-time, and as a result, people are looking elsewhere. A couple of days ago, Plurk underwent its very own slow-down, but with good reason:

“There we were merrily minding our own business when we were descended upon by a swarm of A-list Twittigentsia. Couple this freak and unexpected publicity with our largely running the service off the backs of a non-production ready [development] server and you have a huge performance issue.”

Which we can forgive them for, even more so if their big game talk translates into a stable service:

“You can rest easy knowing that every facet of Plurk is built with scaling in mind from day one.”

Of course, this all remains to be seen. But if the last two days are any indication, Plurk is holding up well under the heavy load of interest pouring in their direction.

The possibilities of Plurk

Over the last few days of using Plurk, a few thoughts and ideas have sprung to mind, which I’m going to share with you. Some are good, some bad:

Some suggestions for Plurk:

  • I’d like to be able pin specific Plurks, so I don’t have to go scrubbing back down my time line to find them. Maybe some kind of Favourite feature.
  • Plurk would be an excellent support tool for crisis management situations. Because it’s possible to watch an idea spread across Plurk, so too would support staff be able to watch problems develop and spread, allowing them to step in an intervene in a timely fashion.
  • Since we have Cliques, why not let us filter our time line based on them?
  • And while we’re on the subject of Cliques, why can’t I see those that I’ve been added to in my own Clique list?

And now for the darker side of Plurk:

  • If you want access to those other features of Plurk, you need accrue those Karma points. Sadly, this seems to me like a very obvious way to encourage people to just Plurk for the sake of gaining more Karma, adding to the noise at the expense of the signal.
  • Might we see spam make an appearance on Plurk? There’s a chance because it’s possible to embed URLs into Plurks so that they use words for their link, rather than just the text of the link itself.

In memory of micro-blogging, lest we forget!

Pownce becomes quieter and quieter with every passing day, while Twitter struggles to deal with the traffic of people posting their Tweets. Hardly anyone comments or remarks any more.

All the cool kids are on Plurk these days. Plurk might yet have the same problems that Pownce and Twitter have, but at least it’s fun for now…

Recommended reading

By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

12 replies on “Plurk takes on Twitter, Pownce”

Loved the article! I see now why Plurk suggests that users not update more than 30 times a day, as the confusion begins to explode exponentially. Not sure how that whole Karma thing is gonna work out.

It’s only a matter of time before Twitter get’s the upgrades necessary to make Plurk irrelevant. How many times has Facebook done this recently? Remember the big thing w/ IM through Facebook, I can’t even remember the product anymore, then two weeks later Facebook released their own. Yup Twitter will do this to Plurk and they can because they already have the user base.

i just joined plurk yesterday and really enjoyed it. i can see its advantages above twitter as far as down time and the ability to hold conversations in shared boxes with all those responding to a ‘plurk’.

i like your idea of ‘pinning’ a post so we dont have to scroll through to find one we are trying to keep track of.

plus, is it just me, or is it annoying as h*ll to try scrolling down to your plurking box to send a message, but instead, you go skimming across plurkville through messages! it wont allow us to click on the center of the window to scroll downward. booooo!

but, all in all, i had grown weary of twitters down time and lack of improvements. plurk picked up where twitter left off. so ill be using both.

While there is something to be said for being the first out the door with a new idea, it’s the competitors that forces the old guard to improve their product. I do like the Plurk GUI much better. I just joined, so I’ll have to play with it for a while.

Completely agree with this article! Amazing. Great write-up.
I have high hopes for Plurk, there have been some slow downs, some features I’m not sold on, but overall, I’m riding the wave and hope I don’t bail.

I’m going to hold out on Plurk. Sure a lot of the “A-List” bloggers are promoting it, but they’ve been known to get it wrong. I’m going to wait until Plurk gets a larger user base, making it more relevant and useful. My suspicion is similar to yours, Wayne: by then Twitter will fix their capacity problems and Plurk will be irrelevant.

Hi guys and thanks for the great comments!

Andy, I didn’t know about the 30 Plurk per day thing. So that’s news to me.

Kim, things are still pretty new, so I suspect Plurk is going to change radically over the next couple of months, as they work their way through all of the suggestions, blog articles and feedback.

Top Rated, I totally agree! There’s nothing like a good competitor to make the other guys think and keep them on their toes.

Alex & Pierro, glad you two like the article. Thanks guys!

Kyle & Rudy, the only thing that got Twitter off the ground was everyone else following the thought leaders in their niche. There’s absolutely no technical reason for Twitter to succeed.

But in fairness to Twitter, the same thing happened with Plurk. However, of the two services, Plurk has more to offer, while Twitter is essentially nothing more sophisticated than the status update on Facebook.

In fact (and in all seriousness), it’d make more sense to turn Twitter into a Facebook application. At least then they wouldn’t have to worry about uptime and stability.

The fact of the matter is, Twitter is an exceptionally weak service, being an easy target to just about anyone:

“If the mobile service providers are looking for the next “killer app” then they need look no further than building a service to compete with Twitter…

In this scenario, services like Twitter add almost zero value while the mobile service providers will come into their own.”

As it stands, Twitter’s only really ally is the momentum from its audience. Beyond that, there’s no real way for them to respond to Plurk, other than doing something very “me too” and looking very foolish.

I can’t tell you how many people from Twitter have come to Plurk and been so blown away that they’ve just given up on Twitter all together.

Let’s not forget, Twitter is a status update tool, and not instant messaging. That for me is the reason Twitter is experiencing such major problems; people are bending it all out of shape, making it do what it was never designed to do.

But the problem bigger problem is, they’re fully committed to just keeping Twitter alive, with very little time consider responding to Plurk, which is everything Twitter simply cannot be…

Great article Wayne!

I personally need therapy, I have Plurk addiction. But that’s the way it was when I first started using Twitter. The whole idea of micro-blogging is just evolving exponentially.

Anyways, my only problem with Plurk is that if I respond to a thread on Plurk, sometimes I expect an answer, but there is no way to know if that thread has been updated. Right? Or am I missing something?

Hi Rami! You’ll know when a thread’s been updated when you see the number in the red box to the right of the thread itself.

Also, you’ll see a button in the bottom left of the time line, which you click to view all the updated Plurks…

I just discover this site today.
I will bookmark it, you guys have a lot of interesting articles.
Keep up the good work to make the net a better place to be.

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