Complex Power.com tech bridges social networks

A useful concept marred by a confusing interface, the site lets you access your social networks (including Facebook) as well as your IM networks in one place.

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
3 min read

Power.com is an ambitious social utility that brings together all the networks you have on social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, and Orkut, as well as on instant-messaging networks like AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and MSN Messenger.

If you have have a presence on more than one network, it's worth a look, though it has its own interface that awkwardly sits on top of your existing services when you use it.

The biggest draw of Power is that it really does bring everyone in your networks together for you. On the Power start page, you can see all your contacts from all your networks, and all their status updates, and then quickly jump to user profile pages on whatever network they're on, or drop users messages. What Meebo does for instant messaging, Power does for social networks as well.

Power.com gives you one dashboard for all your social-network activity.

Meebo for social networks
Like Meebo, Power lets you connect to users without bothering with which network they're from. From the Send Message window in Power, you can select any number of your friends, from any of your networks, and send the same message to all of them. You don't even need a new login for Power; you can use one from one of your existing social networks.

One feature I was unable to test is the utility of updating all your social-network profiles when you update just one. So if, for example, you change your profile picture or a photo album on Facebook, you can have it changed for you on MySpace and Hi5. Or if you add an OpenSocial-compliant app on one service, you can also have it show up on the others.

The service puts its own interface on top of social networks like Facebook when you use it as your control center.

I see the utility, but I can't say that I enjoyed using the service. It works by placing a navigation bar on top of your social networks. The look and feel is different from your social networks, and I found switching between the Power interface and the native interface on my networks a little jarring. The options available in the bar change depending on which network you're using. And Power doesn't blend your contacts together; if a friend of yours is on Facebook as well as MySpace, the system doesn't offer any utility that leverages the fact that they are the same person.

If you're using Power to access pages inside your social network, you will also see Power features injected into your sites. For example, when viewing a Facebook profile, a tool to message multiple users at once (across all your networks) will show up underneath the usual entry box to post on another user's wall. If you go to Facebook directly, you don't get the new link.

The system will appear to embed new features inside existing social-network pages (Facebook shown).

When I used the service, I did find it cool to be able to see all my social-network friends in one place, on my Power dashboard, and to see my personal data feeds from all my networks aggregated into one.

I tried a version of Power that's become popular in Brazil and India over the past few months (Power is a Brazillian company). It has over 5 million users, Power execs told me. A new version of Power, targeted at U.S. users, is due to open up today. Support for services LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, GMail, AOL Instant Messenger and Skype should arrive shortly, the company says.

Features still to come include useful mobile phone support; the current mobile version is very limited. The company is pitching Power as not just an end-user tool but a platform for building sites that enable "social Internetworking," or the linking of profiles and networks.

Useful, but not pretty
I like what Power is about. Like the products that bridge instant-messaging networks (Trillian, Meebo, Adium, Digsby, Pidgin, etc.), Power performs the very useful service of bridging social networks. However, I did find Power's approach to bridge building intrusive and confusing. I find managing my social networks baffling enough. Power gave me more capabilities, but it did not make things easier.

See also: FriendFeed.