A new kid is on the blogs: Pownce.
If you know Twitter or Jaiku or if you are german and know texteln, frazr and 7 others then you might know what Pownce is. It lets you share your status messages with your friends. But not only that because Pownce can even more, like share a link, share a file (up to 10MB, 100MB if you go pro. They are served by S3. Maybe they even use EC2? And if it’s an MP3 it will directly show up with an embedded player) and share an event complete with RSVP messages.
Like Twitter you can subscribe to your friends posts by adding them. If they don’t add you back you will only receive their public posts, the default is to post only to your friends. If they add you back you will get those, too. Unfortunately there is no way of changing the default as mine could be all public.
A nice feature is grouping of friends. You can create named sets with 1+ friends in them and this group will show up in the selection list where you select to whom to send a post (public, friends only, groups): In this selection you can also select each friend individually thus integrating a direct message system without the need for a separate page (although when reading you might want them to stand out). Also a nice feature is the “forward” function which lets you forward any post to another friend or (as an option) to all friends who have missed this (thus not being the friend of your friend).
Adding new friends is also easier. When entering a new social network it’s usually the problem number 1 to add enough friends so that it makes sense. In Pownce there is a nice way of doing it as the system shows you friends of friends on the “Add new friend” page. This makes it easier to find your buddies as they are most likely already connected somewhere in your network. The downside might be that more friend requests are made than usually even to people you maybe don’t know (at least I have the feeling that I get more of them than on e.g. Twitter) and you maybe have to decide what to do with them. Well, I simply add them, I guess I can still delete them if they post too much stuff I am not interested in.
On the notification side you can define quite a few things, the default is to get notified with every action which is of course annoying as every new post by a friend will trigger an email. But you can decide to e.g. only get notifications for replies to your posts, new events, files and so on. Unfortunately the content of the post/reply is not already included in the mail and thus you need to click first.
Another feature similar to Jaiku are replies. Instead of writing @somebody you just click the reply-Button of a post and enter your reply. Additionally you can rate the post. The problem with replies is though that you only see the ones you made or received but if you reply in some other friend’s post you cannot subscribe to further replies. Thus you might miss conversations. The same is true of course of conversations which start on a post of a friend and which you may not recognize. Rating is nice but of course a way of filtering for ratings would be needed.
What is missing?
What Pownce is missing is the mobile side of things. You cannot yet send or receive posts via SMS and additionally only one RSS feed is there right now which is the feed of your and your friend’s posts but not the one of the main timeline. Moreover an API seems to be there as they created an external application using AIR themselves and somebody made a Facebook application but it’s not open or documented it seems.
Another thing I noticed is that last names are not always shown. No idea why they only show Christian S. for me but at least in my profile it would be nice to have it visible completely (or make it a privacy setting). Then again I have the problem with my SL/RL identity, thus I’d like a field for my Second Life (or any other nickname) or at least more space in the profile box.
Will it become the new star?
As people like Kevin Rose and Leah Culver with a big following in the web2.0 scene are behind Pownce it might really gain momentum and in fact since yesterday it really did (I signed up yesterday and already have nearly 70 friends know from Twitter, Second Life etc.). It also seems more active than Jaiku to me.
The big question is scalability though. Pownce also had it’s hiccups already and eventually Twitter is now in front in terms of scalability as they maybe were silent on the front of new features but fighting for stability instead. In general I think nowadays you should think about a good scalable architecture before you even write the first line of code.
So time will tell, as always. Right now it looks promising. Add an API, remove some glitches and hope for it to stay stable and maybe it will take the Twitter crowd over.
PS: Here is my profile!