Kevin Rose’s new company, Megatechtronium, launched Pownce yesterday. It was rumored to be a new instant messaging client, but I’m not too sure if that’s a good term for it. I see it more as a combination of Twitter and Tumblr. Pownce allows you to communicate with friends much like you would with Twitter, but it also allows you to send special messages in the form of links, files, and events. There’s also strong group messaging features which enables you to send messages to a single friend, a group of friends, or all Pownce users.
Pownce comes in two flavors: Web and Adobe AIR application. We’ll take a look at both, but you’re free to use whichever one you’d like. The web interface has a similar structure to Twitter. You will find a list of all your friends on the left, a form in the middle for posting messages, and past messages right below the form. There’s also a list of filtering options on the right so you can narrow down on message type, messages in reply to you, and messages that you have sent. You can also find a settings area in which users can customize their profile with a custom blurb, a profile photo, and theme. (Four preset themes to choose from)
The stream of messages on your main profile page consists of public messages, private messages, and replies. Each message is formatted differently depending on its message type and shows additional information like how many replies have been made and who else can see the message. You can also navigate into an individual message to create a reply, rate the message, and view other replies from other Pownce users. You will also find a handy forwarding feature that lets you pass any message you come across to your own friends. And don’t forget about advertisements. Pownce offers a pro plan for $20/year which disables advertisements, but if you’re not pro, expect to find advertisements appear in the form of specially styled messages. To be honest, I wonder why Twitter hasn’t done the same because they really aren’t all that obtrusive.
Sending a message is very simple and can be done in either the web interface or Pownce application. As of now, users can send messages in the form of text, links, files, and events. Clicking on a message type that you want to send will dynamically change the form with the appropriate fields. For example, sending a link will let you fill in an address with a description; file lets you choose a file and write a description (also has a nice progress bar show as you upload); and when adding an event, you can fill in the what, when and where with a message. Unfortunately, you can only upload one file at a time (unless you make your own zip file) and you are limited to 10MB if you don’t have a pro account (pro can upload 100MB files).
Now let’s take a look at Pownce’s Adobe AIR based application. As mentioned earlier, Pownce lets you use either the web interface or Pownce AIR app, but you only get a small fraction of the features in the AIR app. You can add messages and view messages and that’s about it. The only real benefit of using the AIR app at this point is that it’s easier to keep open than a browser and you can quickly keep track of messages and add messages. Another thing I like is how each message is displayed in a collapsed format only to show the full message when you click it. This makes it easier to look through your list of messages and removes clutter. Otherwise, I found the application to be a little buggy at times (explains the alpha status). For instance, when using the scroll wheel, it would sometimes scroll in the opposite direction I would tell it. Also, when you add a friend, you have to quit the application and open it again for the drop down list of friends to update. Lastly, you see a flicker every time the list of most recent messages refreshes, which can be a bit distracting, but not a major issue.
To be honest, my first impression of Pownce was not good. During the first 30 minutes of testing, I thought to myself, “Did they really just hype up yet another twitter clone?” I was wrong. Pownce does feel like Twitter in many ways, but it’s much more structured and feature rich. Perhaps my favorite feature of Pownce is the ability to add replies to specific messages and then viewing all the replies in a threaded discussion. This becomes much more useful as you start having multiple private discussions and public discussions at the same time. I also found that messaging on Pownce just doesn’t feel the same as Twitter, which isn’t a bad thing. Twitter feels much more free-form where I can just say whatever is on my mind. But with Pownce, I feel I have to refrain from submitting multiple messages in a row and say something actually worth sharing.
Even though I’ve only had an account with Pownce since last night, I’m already finding it to be a great way to communicate with friends. It’s not too far off from your basic instant messenger, but the format in which messages are displayed and group messaging features makes it much more appealing. I can’t say I’d pay $20/year for it, but I must admit the pro badges look awfully nice. Unfortunately, Pownce is only accepting invitation-only registration at this time and I do not have any invites to hand out. You can find me on Pownce with the username, bbenzinger. Lastly, I owe thanks to Rafe Needleman for an invitation to Pownce. You can find his review of Pownce on Webware.