TweetSwitch – send, receive and filter tweets by IM

tweetswitch[UK] TweetSwitch is a new project from the team behind London-based Comufy, the communications platform for businesses. Built on top of Comufy’s technology, TweetSwitch provides a simple but deceptively powerful service, enabling you to send and receive Twitter updates via various Instant Messaging (IM) clients.

At its most basic, the functionality provided by TweetSwitch is similar to Twitter’s original support for IM, which the company was later forced to pull due to too much strain on its servers. Others have stepped in to fill the void, such as, and potentially IMified. In that sense TweetSwitch has plenty of competition. But it’s the way in which you can filter tweets and send them to multiple IM clients that sets the service apart.

First up, users can decide what type of tweets to send and be able to respond to from their IM client. All regular tweets from the people they’re following or @ mentions/replies or Direct Messages (DM) only. Or perhaps all three. Twitter Lists will also be another option soon. On the IM side, at the moment GTalk, AIM, ICQ, Yahoo! Messenger and Windows Live Messenger are supported, with Skype said to be “coming soon”. So, for example, I might just have the most important tweets – DMs – coming to my AIM account.

tweetswitch-configNext, you can prioritise up to three different IM setups. Taking my DM-only example, I can tell TweetSwitch to try sending DMs to my AIM account first, which I use at my desktop, but failing that, try GTalk next which I run on my Android mobile phone. And so on.

But here’s where things get really clever. Tweets can also be sent to more than one IM client/account at a time. This means that several people within a company can monitor and respond to twitter messages from customers. Here’s one example given to me by TweetSwitch:

“To monitor my startup’s Twitter stream, I want mentions and direct messages forwarded to the CEO on Windows Live Messenger, AND to the CTO on GTalk”

That’s pretty powerful stuff, especially since you’re not confined to the desktop, with all smartphone platforms supporting various IM clients and protocols. What makes all of this functionality that bit more impressive too is that the UI for setting up the filtering rules is dead simple. In fact, it’s possibly a bit too simple, relying heavily on AJAX without a ‘save changes’ button or enough user feedback at times.

Two questions remain, however.

Can TweetSwitch meet the infrastructure challenge where Twitter itself failed? The service is currently in Alpha and hasn’t been without its teething problems, there was some downtime over Christmas and the company has since added more capacity. Even in my limited testing I ran into a few problems some of which I suspect were caused at Twitter’s end with relation to its use of OAuth to tie the two services together. When one service is built on top of another, it’s never clear who is to blame, although as I said TweetSwitch is clearly marked as an Alpha release. Ultimately, however, the company is confident it can scale since TweetSwitch is built on Comufy’s technology which is designed to handle “millions of users”.

The second question is TweetSwitch’s business model? The service is free to use and I’m not sure how you make money from being a messaging gateway for other services without charging them or the end user. For now, TweetSwitch isn’t saying.

“Our business model is the same as Twitter’s business model – it will be revealed in the near future”, says Comufy’s COO and co-founder, Sebastien Marion.