When I first signed up for Twitter, a good five and a half years ago now, I didn't really know what to do with it. This is a pretty common experience. Users sign up, end up on the website, in those days not even following anyone, and are left to post 'This is my first Tweet' or 'I don't understand what this is for' before they move on.
The ones who come back, sign up for a few more users, find that their friends are regular users are the lucky ones. When Twitter works well, it's a fun space. One with problems, granted, but I've had a lot of fun using Twitter.
What made Twitter useful for me, though, was the first time I used it in a client. Not an iOS client, or even an Android one, it was a desktop Mac client. Specifically, Twitterrific. When Twitter became a stream of information merrily scrolling down the left hand side of my screen, I got it. It was useful. And it's been there on the left hand side of every screen I've used since.
Twitter itself is being run rather differently nowadays, of course. They're clearly unhappy with third party developers taking away attention from their own clients or the web experience whereas back in those days, third party clients was all that existed. This has a huge impact on all users of these clients, and although it's often the mobile ones that get the attention, it's the desktop situation that scares me the most.
Right now, Twitter seems to be happy to let their Mac client rot. It hasn't had a major update in years, and Loren Brichter, the developer of the original Mac Tweetie client has left Twitter. There are some third party clients out there still and many are good. Twitterrific is still around, and is a great app, but doesn't support streaming. Tweetbot is in beta, and is what I'm currently using so there are options available for the time being, but as far as I can tell, Twitter don't want me using their service through a desktop client. Or, if they do at all, they'd rather I did it through their own Tweetdeck, which I've never really got on with. The only other client I'd enjoyed, since it supports streaming, was Echofon, but they're now leaving the desktop arena to focus on mobile.
Simply speaking, Twitter neither likes third party clients, nor appears to care about the desktop experience of Twitter, and considering how aggressive they're becoming about forcing users into using Twitter how they envision it, there's a good chance that the desktop experience of Twitter will disappear. And that will make me very sad.
As an addendum, and after complaining about it on this very blog, I've signed up for App.Net. There are a lot of App.Net clients out there (today I'm using Wedge, and it's very nice), but App.Net will never have the userbase of Twitter. It'll never have the variety of the last few years of Twitter. And that's the best case scenario. App.Net may not even still be here in a year or two.
I hope my fears are unfounded and either Twitter will give some love to their Mac app, or they'll make an environment that's more friendly to developers, but I'm not holding my breath.