Being one of the first contenders and applicants on the Semantic Web/Web 3.0 bandwagon, one of the hyped products over the year has been Twine. Richard MacManus covered it on ReadWriteWeb back in October last year, and the service recently went into private beta with invites going out to a few bloggers and the press. I had the opportunity to try it out, and I’ll be the second to say it after Marshall Kirkpatrick — it disappoints.
Twine calls itself a social bookmarking, research, and discovery tool — although there are many other obvious applications. The idea behind the service is that users create a ‘Twine’ based on a particular subject/topic/category/hierarchy, and add things such as bookmarks, documents, notes, products, photos, and videos to it using the web interface, e-mail, or the bookmarklet.
The idea is that Twine can semantically sort and discover through this information — uncovering names of people, places, and organizations, and recommending related content to users. In theory, obviously, this is a genius idea — as is the whole Semantic Web. However, the problem is that Twine doesn’t execute as it should, and we’re left with a crippled, half-useful product.
I created an example Twine for use and went throughout the web bookmarking random articles. Coming back to Twine, I noticed a lot of articles I’d bookmarked had been left as they are — relevant content which Twine should essentially recognize wasn’t of any use, and as a result, my experience at Twine was no different than any other social bookmarking tool.
The other problem with Twine is that its user interface is cluttered, confusing, and simply unattractive. If I’m a serious researcher using the tool to gather data, it’s not something I’d want to spend a lot of time in. I came across a number of dead ends and places where the question, “um, now what?” was begged to being asked.
On the other hand, Twine does have a number of features that make it worthwhile. Firstly, I’m a fan of its collaborative features which let you add people to the Twine. If you’re in a team and able to get members used to the system, it can be worthwhile. Another useful feature is the ability to post things to Twine through e-mail (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org) — a great alternative if you’re not willing to put up with their clunky UI.
In a few words, Twine is simply del.icio.us with a more complicated UI and offering. It’s a tool that has a lot of promises and in theory, an idea waiting to happen. However, in its current state, it poses a few problems and just isn’t there yet. But seeing they’ve just entered private beta, I’d give them a few months to clear up the air and revisit it — maybe it’s one of those things that gets better over time.