As social networks continue to grow, users share more and more of their lives online. Services like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn are taking over as the primary places we spend our time online. Consequently, these networks are filled with years of our status updates, vacation photos, resumés, and more.
But what would happen if Instagram accidentally deleted years-worth of those 1970′s-style filtered photos of your brunches at the French restaurant down the street from your apartment? What if you lost access to your Facebook account and now would be unable to post a half-hearted happy birthday message to that guy who you vaguely remember from 7th grade P.E.? Fortunately, a service called SocialSafe has your social media life covered.
SocialSafe is a cross platform app that lets you download data from multiple social networks. Once you have synced with each of the services that you choose to connect, you get a basic level of access to the photos, tweets, etc. that SocialSafe now has saved to your computer.
SocialSafe is built as an Adobe Air app. I personally have never been a fan of Air due to the incessant, sluggish updates that Adobe pushes out. Plus, using Adobe Air also means that installation requires a couple extra steps, which is frustrating.
After downloading the app, it will extract in Adobe Air. You’ll then be prompted to connect your first service. You’ll start out with the free package, meaning you can only connect one service. I’ll explain the differences in the packages which they offer later, but for now, keep in mind that I am writing this review using the “Pro” package.
Connecting services is straightforward, and if you’ve ever used any app that uses Facebook or Twitter as a login for another site, the process here won’t be new. For instance, logging in using Facebook will show you what power the app has (namely, accessing your data), what SocialSafe can post to your account, and so forth.
Once connected, you’ll want to sync. SocialSafe will access your account, and download various data that you specify. Each online service has different things that you can choose to download. For example, Twitter lets you either download everything, or pick from your bio, followers, following, inbox, mentions, outbox, and of course, tweets.
Syncing runs relatively quickly. I’m not an avid Facebook user, so I don’t post status updates or photos that often. It took about two minutes to sync that account, but I imagine Facebook addicts with thousands of photos and walls cluttered with postings will be waiting around for much longer.
For this review, I connected Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Once these services synced, it was time to see what the benefits were to backing up.
The Journal view gives you a daily calendar of activity. If, for instance, you tweeted yesterday, clicking the back button will show the tweet. The journal also shows you SocialSafe’s activity, which is essentially limited to backups. Looking at Friday, July 20th, I see a lot of activity because I began using SocialSafe, and three backups occurred, one for each service. To see what got downloaded, you can click “View Backup.”
Your first backup will be chock-full of stuff, but consequent backups will just show new data. Each category of data will be organized by type, (profile updates, wall posts, photos, etc.). I found navigating the backups here was simple and intuitive.
Perhaps most intriguing is the calendar view. Here you will see months, with a green dot on days where there was some activity on one of your accounts. If you mouseover a particular day, you’ll see a summary of your activity. Click on the day and you’ll see the actual picture or tweet or wall post.
So you’ve downloaded all those pithy comments you had while you were live-tweeting the terrible standup comedian you saw last year, and now you can rest easy knowing they’re all backed up. SocialSafe does far more than just backing up, though.
In addition to the Journal and Calendar views, you also get the Profile view. Here, you’ll see each connected service as a separate entity. The “Select Content to View” dropdown lets you filter what parts of your backups to see, and you get some interesting functionality here. For example, with Twitter, you get views such as “Exclusively Following,” “Mutually Following,” and “Lost Followers,” among others. Keep in mind that some of these require comparisons against previous backups, (such as the lost followers category), so they might not be useful after your first backup.
You can also export all of your data out of the program, should you choose. This is certainly a welcome feature for backup purposes, but considering that the only available format is CSV, these files aren’t particularly useful on their own.
What I was most pleased with is the search feature. A solid search function is something that is surprisingly tough to implement well in many web and desktop apps, but SocialSafe’s search performs beautifully. After typing in your query, you get results filtered by service, with words matching your search highlighted. The scope of the search is impressive, even searching in Instagram captions and Likes.
There are three tiers available for SocialSafe. The free level lets you backup Facebook, but places strict limits on the amount of data you can download. This means it doesn’t backup all your photos, statuses, etc. For $3.50/year, you get access to more social networks and full backups. For $7/year, you get all the additional features I reviewed here, including full search, integrated calendar views (which combines your activity across multiple networks onto one calendar.
I was very impressed with the ease of use for SocialSafe. The design is basic, and probably won’t replace the web app versions of most of these social networks, (or in Instagram’s case, the iOS and Android versions). However, that fact shows a shortcoming here. Many developers have tried – and in my opinion, all have failed – to create apps that merge your social networks into a single feed. SocialSafe is billed primarily as a way to view your activity on social networks, and in this regard, it excels wonderfully. I was so happy with all of the features, in fact, that it made me wish that the app wasn’t “Read Only.” I’d love to have the ability to tweet or post to Facebook right from the app.
Keeping this from being perfect are a few design issues. While the styling is clean, the navigation can, at times, feel a tad too complicated. There is a lack of preference settings as well, which means that things like shortcuts are missing. Perhaps the biggest flaw here is the nature of backups: You have to run the app for it to sync, unlike other backup solutions that we have come to love, like Time Machine.
All in all, this is app was a pleasant surprise at every turn. At just 7 bucks a year, the Pro plan feels like a great value. Whether needing to backup your social networks is truly necessary is debatable, but the additional features make SocialSafe an app worth having if you’re a social network junkie.