Twitter For Mac Is Like Massively Multiplayer IM — Will It Alter Twitter Itself?

Back in August, I first got to try out the Twitter Streaming API via the User Streams feature which was being beta tested on a new version on popular third-party client TweetDeck. “Twitter User Streams Is Crack For Realtime Web Junkies,” was the title I went with. For this post, I sort of wanted to use the title “If User Streams Is Crack, Twitter For Mac Is A Crack Pipe.” Then I thought better of it. Actually, I didn’t. I’m simply mentioning it now instead of in the title because I thought the title I used was a bit more in line with what I actually wanted to say.

But the truth is that the newly launched Twitter for Mac is one of the most addicting, and more importantly, engaging, products I can recall seeing. Just watching it update in realtime is fascinating enough. But when you actually start to have a conversation with people and can see them responding to you in realtime, it becomes more like an IM service instead of the way we’ve typically viewed Twitter: with static one-off messages and maybe a reply here or there. And I’m wondering if now that Twitter has added the realtime User Streams to an official product, if it won’t fundamentally alter Twitter itself?

Shortly after it launched this morning, Erick gave Twitter for Mac a resounding “meh“. But Erick’s a TweetDeck guy. As much as I liked the idea of TweetDeck with User Streams turned on, I couldn’t get into it. There’s simply too much going on with a UI that sort of looks like a nightmare to me (complete with the black background). And while you can customize it, it’s designed in a way that’s all about cramming as much information in front of your face as possible. It’s just not my cup of tea. But Twitter for Mac is beautiful. It’s simple, speedy, and highly usable.

And during my first day of usage today, I’ve noticed my tweeting actions changing a bit — and from others I’ve talked to today, I’m not alone. Now when I tweet, I instantly see the replies come in thanks to User Streams. This is much faster than it is even on Twitter’s website, because they hold them back and make you hit a button to refresh. And with all these Tweets coming at me in realtime, I feel the urge to respond more quickly than I normally would. And this results in a realtime conversation taking place over Twitter — which is why I compare it to IM.

Granted, for those not in the conversation who follow the people I’m responding to, this has to be pretty annoying. But it’s also interesting. It’s like having a conversation in a crowded room where anyone at anytime can stop and listen to you if they want. Why would they want to? I don’t know. Why does anyone want to follow anyone else on Twitter?

And obviously that’s been an issue before, but never like this. The realtime-ness ups the conversation greatly judging by the few I’ve had today and others I’ve spoken with about it.

And again, it’s addicting. I sort of feel weird having a conversation in realtime with friends in a public forum, but what the hell, why not? It’s kind of fun. Maybe someone is actually interested in passively listening and joining in as they please. Maybe I’m crazy, and a weird edge case, but I do wonder if the realtime User Streams implementation could alter the way people use Twitter. What if it becomes more noisy (and I’m don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way, just in a different way)? Does that ruin Twitter or make it even more addictive?

Obviously, the people using Twitter for Mac are going to be a smaller subset of the larger audience. But it’s still now an official product. What if Twitter rolls out the realtime feature to their website? That type of realtime system use to lead to huge engagement on FriendFeed, a service with tens of millions of fewer users than Twitter. The results could be quite scary (again, maybe in a good or a bad way).

Either way, I love this latest version of Tweetie reborn as Twitter for Mac. Back to the crack pipe.

Below: Old vs. New Tweetie (Twitter) for Mac: