What Happened To TweetDeck?

On December 8 of last year, TweetDeck, one of the most popular multi-platform Twitter clients was relaunched as part of a redesign by Twitter. The new TweetDeck featured an interface similar to the old version, only with less features and less customization possibilities. The new version certainly hasn’t gone down well with users; as of early this month the app has only managed to snag a 2-star rating in the Mac App Store and judging by the reviews left, many users feel that this “upgrade” was really more of a “downgrade”.

Let’s take a look at the new version of TweetDeck to see whether it really lives up to all those mediocre reviews.

Why Was It Relaunched?

In May 2011, TweetDeck was purchased by Twitter for a rumored $40-50 million after a bidding war with rival UberMedia (the developers of another popular Twitter client, UberSocial). Although there was no immediate change, TweetDeck hinted on September 25 that a new version of TweetDeck was going to be released which would make it “more consistent with Twitter.com and Twitter mobile apps” (such as those on the iOS, Android and Blackberry platforms).

Tweetdeck Desktop

The previous version of TweetDeck running on a desktop computer

The previous version of TweetDeck required the Adobe AIR plugin to run, but with the relaunch, TweetDeck has now become a native application for OS X and Windows as well as add-on application for Google Chrome. Although the old name still stuck, there is now a greater focus on the fact that it is owned by Twitter and has been rebranded TweetDeck by Twitter.

What’s New?

A few things aside, there aren’t many new features in the new version of TweetDeck. When you first start the program up, you are asked to log in using your TweetDeck account, which helps synchronize your accounts across all platforms (useful if, for example, you want to use TweetDeck across a range of devices). If you haven’t yet got a TweetDeck account, then you can create one really easily (and it’s free).

TweetDeck Login

The new log-in screen for TweetDeck

The interface has, however, been given a slight overhaul to bring it in line with Twitter’s redesign a couple of months back.

TweetDeck Main

The main screen for TweetDeck, showing your timeline, mentions and own tweets in separate columns.

Adding columns is now a lot simpler in the new version, with larger buttons and a redesigned notification box which, in my opinion, bears a mighty resemblance to the iOS interface and brings it more inline with the web version of Twitter. This version also supports full-screen viewing in OS X Lion.

TweetDeck Columns

Adding new columns in TweetDeck

The new version of TweetDeck still supports URL shortening and scheduling of tweets directly from the application. You can choose either between Twitter or bit.ly URL shortening and the new version does support bit.ly usernames and API keys. You can also choose between Twitter, yFrog and Twitpic for image uploads.

TweetDeck New Tweet

Sending a new tweet in TweetDeck

What’s Missing?

Seeing as TweetDeck is now officially owned by Twitter, support for LinkedIn, Google Buzz, Foursquare and MySpace was dropped from the new release, leaving only Twitter and Facebook supported. Other features that were dropped to bring TweetDeck more in-line with Twitter’s other range of applications include lack of geo-location support (although this is supported in the web version) and lack of deck.ly support, which allowed users to post tweets in excess of 140 characters.

TweetDeck Settings

The customisation options in the new version of TweetDeck

Another complaint (which can be seen from the reviews on the Mac App Store) is that the new version only supports 3-column viewing at once – the previous version supported up to 5 columns on one screen. This is not so much of a quibble if you only use TweetDeck with one account – you only really need your timeline and mentions – but if you are managing multiple Twitter accounts (or you use TweetDeck with Facebook as well) then this can be pretty inconvenient.

How Does It Fare?

Not well, unfortunately. I have to agree with a lot of the reviews posted on the App Store (and with my own experience) in saying that TweetDeck has lost a lot of great features and customisation possibilities which made it a fantastic third-party Twitter client. It seems to me that Twitter has now got too much control over the application. Yes, they can bring it in line with their other applications but did they really have to do it in such a dramatic way?

I was a big fan of the old TweetDeck as it gave me so many possibilities and it made using Twitter extremely dynamic. The web version is great for people who are starting out with the social network, but for more advanced users then it can be a little basic. However, with the new version of TweetDeck it seems like we are all back at square one again. Yes, it gives you more features than the web version but you just find yourself longing for “the good old days” with the old version.

Until Twitter realizes how many faithful TweetDeck users it has let down (myself included), I will keep on using another client until an updated TweetDeck with richer features comes along. And it better come along soon because Mac users won’t wait forever before abandoning the product altogether.