Juggling the ever increasing number of social networks and media sites can be a time consuming pain. Logging into lost of different accounts, you can have a very busy browser before you’ve don anything constructive. I thought I’d look at the current range of solutions to this. I’ll start with some honesty: At the moment there is no one good solution, but there are some which do a reasonable job.
Notable stand alone applications AlertThingy, TweetDeck and Skimmer all offer to pull together your social networks. Skimmer is quite interesting, but it’s very much a beta product, and is the only one with Blogger support, but doesn’t feel finished! It’s something to keep your eye on. TweetDeck and AlertThingy are much slicker, although both are focussed on Twitter and Facbook. Both work very well for Twitter – you don’t miss any of the Twitter experience doing through either of these clients. Facebook is a mixed bag – you can’t do everything you can on the website from any of these clients. AlertThingy offers many more social networks, and they both look good, so TweetDeck loses out just by being a bit too limited.
Firefox has similar add-ons. These give you the more or less the same features as the stand alone apps, but are integrated into Firefox. The most flexible we’ve found is Yoono. It’s a bit of a monster, but can bring Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Myspace and more into the same space. On top of that it features instant messaging from Microsoft Messenger, Google Talk and Yahoo chat, plus the option to add feeds from your favourite websites. The amount of stuff can get a bit overwhelming, but you can choose exactly what you do and don’t want. The Facebook feed also gives you your news feed, not just status updates, which is great.
Online services like Zenbe bring your email together with Facebook, Twitter and more. I found this less comfortable than using either a Firefox add-on or a stand alone application. What is clear at the moment is that no one has a perfect solution. Everything I’ve seen can handle Twitter easily, but Facebook always feels like ‘Facebook lite’, and all of these social network aggregators suffer from becoming cluttered. I am looking forward to Skimmer’s further development, as its Blogger support could make it the most complete package, but we’ll have to wait and see.