Not every character should be wasted on a mention
Coming at a time when the development of third-party apps for Twitter are seriously questioned, I'm curious to see what can be done with it in a useful way that hasn't been addressed before. As Twitter goes more mainstream and the company itself also presents the service in a way that early adopters aren't used to; new markets and uses appear that need to be catered for.
In a recent trip I happened to be stuck in a ferry next to a school group gossiping and discussing social networks. "What's the point of Twitter?" someone said. The pre-teens, who seem to be using it on their phone to chat with their classmates, made me realise that, one: I'm old.
And two: there must be a lot of people understanding the service as something completely different than what I use Twitterrific for. And that's why perhaps a new generation of apps, addressing this audience, is here for.
Fliite for Twitter is, perhaps, a result of the popularity of free messaging apps like WhatsApp or Viber, using the Twitter API to message up to ten people at the same time. The idea is to avoid wasting the precious 140 character limit available with user handles, which can take up some space if you want to @mention more than three users.
What Fliite does is treat each tweet as a separate @mention; effectively allowing you to tweet to up to ten of your followers writing the your tweet only once. The app will send for you up to ten individual tweets that will contain the same message and only the @mention of the person in question. I guess the approach is a little spammy, but it tries to serve an useful purpose.
As simple as it sounds
While many iPhone users will swear for their favourite client, Fliite should be used as a messaging aid, a companion to whatever you're using. It's nice to see the usability work that went into it, asking you to write the tweet first, select the recipients and send. These three steps are separated in three views accessible from left to right with a swipe. Of course, no mention goes in the tweet itself, the names will be added later automatically later.
Playful animations adorn the sequence of lightly textured panes on the familiar dark linen iOS uses. If you're not too keen on that you can also select your own background, which for me just sounds like the feature a WhatApp user would request. You do notice hiccups when the app tries to load more contacts while scrolling vertically although you can use the search function as well.
Bridging the social network gap
The developers explain Fliite should be something in between the broadcast power of Twitter and the too personal @mention. There may be occasions where you need to communicate with a team or a group directly without leaving your message unnoticed on their timelines. This can be tweeting a funny GIF to working within a small team. And of course, the school gossip I heard on the ferry during my vacation.
Releasing a Twitter app in 2013 requires some nerve. I'm happy to see the team behind Fliite didn't just try to replicate others and come up with some new API use that I can see working for some users. This doesn't mean that it will change the way I understand Twitter, but I bet there is a lot of people looking for something closer to free messaging apps than the way I use it.