Ginx does Twitter better than Twitter does

Pretty much a complete rewrite of Twitter.com's Web user interface, Ginx is a great service. But where's the business?

Ginx, a buzzy new start-up co-founded by eBay's Pierre Omidyar, has begun to release its Twitter front-end into a limited private "pre-alpha." The upshot is this: If you're a Twitter.com user and you got one of the of the coveted beta invites, use Ginx. It's better than Twitter.com for accessing your Twitter feeds. Ginx is competitive with Twitter desktop apps, like Tweetdeck and Twhirl, although there are things that the clients do that Ginx does not.

Ginx's big improvements over Twitter.com are in two areas: First, it handles links better. Shortened links (via TinyURL, Bitly, etc.) in Twitter messages are expanded to their full URLs right in front of you, with the page's headline as well, so you can see what you're clicking through to. This is a very big usability and security improvement. Ginx will auto-shorten URLs when you post, too, but that's not a unique feature for a Twitter client.

The product also does a much better job at displaying conversations than Twitter.com. If you see that a message is "in reply to" another, you can click on it to see the whole thread. Likewise, if you want to see what people are saying to a person in general, you can see a "with friends" view. And if you click on a hash tag in a message (a de facto way Twitter users create message categories), Ginx will display everything using the tag.

Ginx does a great job tracking conversations on Twitter. It also expands short URLs. Screenshot by Rafe Needleman/CNET Networks

What's not clear from a surface examination is how Ginx is a business. In a TechCrunch interview, Ginx co-founder Randy Ching says monetization may come from helping publishers spread their messages out via Twitter and other services that Ginx may eventually support. Frankly, if I were looking to build a new business right now, serving online publishers would not be my first choice.

That said, Ginx is a very strong new interface for Twitter. See also TweetDeck, recently updated (and open to everyone), which offers several of the same features in an information-dense, yet still readable multi-column view that Twitter junkies are likely to find more valuable. The well-established Twhirl does a nicer job for users who are also on FriendFeed.

 

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