Why Is TweetDeck So Bad?

An execrable experience at the heart of what makes Twitter work.

I don’t have an editor for this personal blog. Please email typos to yourself, and then read them backwards. - A

Think back to the early days of Twitter. What was the first client you really used? Mine was Twhirl. It was 2008, give or take, and I had joined Twitter the year before but found little use for it.

Twhirl changed the game as far as I was concerned. It made Twitter feel both more real-time, and more conversational. I was instantly hooked. Around 200,000 tweets later (most deleted in a purge) I’m still in love with the social broadcast service.

It’s where I live. It’s the first thing I check in the day, the last thing I scan at night. Twitter is the app I use most on my phone. And aside from Chrome and Slack, it’s the thing I use the most on both OS X and Windows 10.

I’m not alone in my obsession (addiction?). There are a lot of us out there. And we, the Power Tweeters, often use TweetDeck, a tool that Twitter bought in 2011. As a bit of history, Twitter bought TweetDeck when it was building its own apps and cutting down on third-party clients (more here). Twitter wanted to control its ad experience, I presume, and thus culled the projects that built the clients that drove its early adoption.

Twitter degrading and deprioritizing its third-party client ecosystem wouldn’t have been that bad if the company had taken it upon itself to build first-rate apps. But as we’ve seen from public reaction to the recently launched New Twitter Web experience, for example, the company is still fumbling the ball.

However, I’d vote that New Web Twitter’s issues are nothing compared to problems that TweetDeck harbors. Here are a few things in TweetDeck that could be fixed:

  • Poor memory usage: TweetDeck is a huge memory hog on PCs and Macs alike. How that is possible is unclear. It’s mostly text! In small boxes! Running on my Core i7 Macbook Pro (with 16 gigs of RAM), how does it begin to gasp and stutter after use, forcing a reboot?

  • Terrible DM support: Some DMs don’t load in TweetDeck at all. Good luck finding those! And when you click on a DM, or group DM, the UI will often lag. Sometimes it will jam altogether! If you can open a DM and type out a reply, TweetDeck often won’t update the UI for some time to reflect what you’ve sent, so you might think that your DM didn’t go through, and resend it. Now you have sent two DMs in a row, and you feel bad.

  • Terrible Gif/Video support: In-stream, videos fail more often than they work. Gifs feel hit or miss lately. Why?

  • Bad mouse-selector-pointer-cursor-location control: Type part of a tweet, tab away, tab back, and now your text is unselected. So when you start typing, presuming, of course, that the software won’t fail you, you wind up calling up all sorts of keyboard shortcuts instead of writing your actual tweet!

  • Terrible username lookup: I was about to tag Rick Wilson in a tweet. In TweetDeck, I tried “@rickwilson” but he didn’t come up in the suggestions. As it turns out, his handle is @therickwilson and as such TweetDeck was utterly stumped. Never mind that he’s a bestselling author, active Twitter user, and has a lot of followers. It’s 2019, and a very standard bit of Twitter username faff made him impossible to find without leaving TweetDeck, going to Chrome, Googling his name + Twitter, and then going back into the app to paste it in. At which point I’d lost interest in my tweet and deleted the draft.

Twitter is worth tens of billions of dollars. Twitter has $6.69 billion in cash and equivalents on-hand (EoQ2’19, details here). It spent $159.2 million on R&D last quarter.

Why not spend some from each bucket on TweetDeck?