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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pip.io: A New Social Platform Almost Worth Considering

A month or two ago, word spread of a new social networking platform called Pip.io. The service is aimed at creating a social operating system, an addition to Facebook and Twitter that would extend the social networking platform and create an efficient interface for users to browse multiple platforms at once. Many will hear of Pip.io, and rub it off as just another attempt at revolutionizing the social networking world. However, this new service is not like other attempts, and while the "social operating system", is not exactly ready to boot, the next few months might just yield a competitor worthy of taking on the social media giants.

When you first log on to Pip.io, the user interface is very rounded and sleek. A semi-transparent sidebar and top toolbar border the content window, with a nice computer graphic background to top it off. The next thing you notice is that everything is Javascript and CSS, no Flash, not even HTML5. But despite this, feeds still update live, and the site is not at a loss for visual effects. Overall, I would say that the site is pretty well-designed, and definitely has a quick response time. You can install a number of applications that will import your Facebook news feed, Twitter stream, and specific RSS feeds. Furthermore, posting to your feed allows you to send your stream to only specific users, as well as to export it back out to Facebook and Twitter. But despite all these cool features in a cool UI, there are a number of things they could improve upon.

The first thing missing is import capabilities. Though some have acclaimed this as the greatest thing missing from the service, the entire site is effectively useless without import and export capabilities. Even though Pip.io executives say their marketing strategy is to work with current social networks, there is no way to merge Facebook and Twitter into your main stream; applications are separate from your main feed. Furthermore, even though you can add an RSS feed application, there is no Google Reader (or Buzz, for that matter) integration.

In addition to this, a rather annoying feature with the interface is that when you want to look at replies or comments on a post, they pop up in a separate window, rather than loading in the feed. Speaking of comments, there is no such thing as @replies, and even though there is a reply button for every piece of a conversation, you cannot branch off conversations, as you might do in Google Wave. And finally, before this post just becomes a list of grievances against the new startup, the service lacks major features when it comes to their Facebook and Twitter apps. You cannot check your requests or direct messages in Facebook, and attempting to view a non-Pip.io user in you Twitter app permanently puts that user's profile in the application's list of users.

Anyway, there is definitely a lot missing from Pip.io that you would expect from a true social networking panacea, but all the deficiencies I listed above are not conceptual flaws. They can be fixed and implemented. Pip.io has been slowly releasing more and more features, and I expect to see the site grow beyond its current boundaries, maybe to become the world's first true social network.

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