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Twitter Lists Competitors Respond: We Can All Get Along

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Screen shot 2009-10-01 at 1.42.23 PMIt looked as if Twitter may have dropped a bomb on a number of Twitter-centric third-party apps yesterday by announcing its new Lists feature. It’s a feature that Twitter really should have implemented a while ago for better filtering if nothing else, but they didn’t, and that gave rise to services like TweepML and Wefollow. So are those guys now mad about Twitter’s latest move? No. Instead, they see it as an opportunity to make their services even more popular by hooking up with the feature through its API.

Brizzly, a web-based Twitter client from Thing Labs, was the first to come out and share its enthusiasm for Twitter’s new feature. One of Brizzly’s key selling points is that you can filter the people you follow on Twitter into groups. As the Brizzly official account tweeted out yesterday, the plan is to now support Twitter Lists. They’ll apparently offer the ability to convert your Brizzly groups into these lists, which is nice.

Meanwhile, Digg founder Kevin Rose’s latest project had been Wefollow, a Twitter directory for popular people to follow in various fields. So is he annoyed by Twitter lists, which will allow users to group people in a similar way? Nope. He tweeted out a link to Twitter’s blog post about Lists a few hours ago with the note, “playing w/twitter lists feature, this is going to be cool :)

The most interesting would-be competitor for Lists however is TweepML. The service, which we covered here, allows you to create your own lists of Twitter users to follow to send and share with others. On the surface, that sounds very similar to what Twitter Lists is, but founder Marcelo Calbucci has already gotten a chance to play with Lists and says that he too looks forward to integrating TweepML with Twitter Lists.

He also notes what he sees as 10 key differences, which we’re reposting here with permission:

  • #1 You can’t create a list with yourself: A Twitter list is a subset of your followers. You cannot follow yourself, and you cannot add yourself to a list you create. If I create “Entrepreneurs in Seattle” list, I cannot be on it.
  • #2 You can only add people you follow: That’s the same issue as above, but what if I want to create a list that doesn’t have everyone that I follow. For example, I might not want to follow all the 300+ Entrepreneurs in Seattle.
  • #3 It’s hard to add people to your list: To add someone to your Twitter list you go to your Friends page and select one-by-one who you want on your list.
  • #4 No way to go from list subscriber to tweep subscriber: Imagine you are following a list of 25 photographers. You get upset because the list owner keeps adding irrelevant people, or removing cool people. You decide you just want to follow them directly. There is no UI to do that now.
  • #5 No way for people to know you are following them: If you follow a list, the people on that list won’t be notified you are following them. You lose the opportunity of them following you back.
  • #6 No way to “follow-the-list-except-that-guy-who-tweets-too-much”: If you follow a list is all or nothing. You can’t exclude that guy that can’t stop tweeting.
  • #7 You can’t import/export lists: They don’t support the TweepML format, but they’ve promised a server-to-server API, which doesn’t matter for end users. If you have a list with 25 accounts, there is no way to easily import a list. There is no way to export that list either, like into a spreadsheet or a text document.
  • #8 What if you block someone: Blocking on Twitter is somewhat weak already, because the person can continue to follow your tweets by just going to your page (if your account is public like most people). Now, if someone creates a list that you are part of it, anyone that you blocked can follow your tweets again by following the list.
  • #9 No stats or analytics: Right now Twitter does not tell you anything about your list. I believe in the future they will tell you how many people are following that list, but that’s it. No way to know how people found the list, how many people came and went, etc. This is probably not important to your average user, but for power users and business, this is critical.
  • #10 No dynamic lists: Finally, Twitter doesn’t allow you to have dynamic lists. For example, if you go to TweepSearch and you want to follow everyone who’s a Security Consultant in Seattle you have to be manually updating that list.

Some very interesting points from someone who has used the feature already.

Overall, it looks like Twitter did a smart thing by allowing these competitors to check out Lists from the get-go. Rather than seeing this as a hugely threatening gesture by the service, these competitors all are welcoming it to varying degrees. Twitter also did a smart thing by making sure Lists launched with an API, so third-parties can build things that will do many of the 10 things listed above.

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