Review: Tangling With Twitter -- 8 Alternative Services

Twitter is the current favorite when it comes to instant presence, but there are other services out there which could be a better fit.

May 16, 2007

8 Min Read
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TwitterAlternatives

•  Introduction•  3jam•  Dodgeball•  Jaiku•  Joopz•  Jyngle

•  Loopnote•  Pinger•  Swarm

•  Image Gallery

The computing world has been (forgive me) atwitter over Twitter for weeks. It's the hottest thing since Second Life and the leading poster child for the idea of "Presence," an idea that comes from the world of instant messaging and business collaboration software.

In this latest method of immediate communication, icons and links on your screen indicate the accessibility and status of people you want to stay in touch with. Are they online or offline? Are they available by cellphone or at their desktop PC?

Once presence has been established, contact invariably follows. What are you doing now, this very minute? "I'm sitting at my desk about to eat a ham sandwich." "My boss just left my cubicle, and I'm wondering if a paycheck is still in my future." "I'm going to hang out at Joe's Bar tonight -- anybody else going to be there?"

Most of these aren't being sent from, or received on, traditional computing devices like desktop PCs. They're more a function of real-time communication across wireless networks using non-traditional devices like WiFi-equipped laptops, smartphones, and even dumbphones that don't do anything more than text messaging. Twitter, for example, become a phenom back in March when it became the hot technology at the South by Southwest conference.

But Twitter doesn't exist in a vacuum. It may be getting all the buzz, but there are other services that offer similar features, and take advantage of the same underlying concepts.

The services reviewed here -- 3jam, Dodgeball, Jaiku, Jooopz, Jyngle, Loopnote, Pinger, and Swarm-it -- all strip presence awareness down to letting you choose from a limited set of ways to send and/or receive messages: in a Web browser, an IM client, or a cell phone text message. Most of them are even more specifically cellphone-centric, in keeping with the preferred communication technology of the younger segments of the population that use technology most heavily to keep in touch.

Is Twitter the leader merely because it was in the right place at the right time? I tried out its competitors to see what they offer.

3jam: Text-2-Groups

TwitterAlternatives

•  Introduction•  3jam•  Dodgeball•  Jaiku

•  Joopz•  Jyngle•  Loopnote•  Pinger•  Swarm

•  Image Gallery

For something more phone-centric, there's 3jam. This service does one thing, and does it well, which is sure to make it a darling of the slacker set -- 3jam makes it easy to use text messaging for a group conversation.

3jam

Dodgeball: Location, Location, Location

Dodgeball is actually older than Twitter -- it was a very early Web 2.0 project that was bought by Google in 2005 (and more or less vanished from sight soon thereafter). The two Dodgeball founders quit Google in a public huff recently, but the service goes on -- in 22 cities in the United States, anyway.

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