Update (06/01): Seesmic eventually killed the green bar overlay. They announced a time-frame (by the middle of June) for closing Ping.fm, and also confirmed that the new Ping service will have a free service level. I commend this outcome, with reservations.
Update (03/03): This post garnered a response from a Seesmic employee, Yama, in the comments. From “figure out the best pricing model”, I gather that pricing remains undecided, so I maintain my hope for a HootSuite-like freemium model. I’m also glad to hear that the green bar will be reviewed for possible improvements. Thank you, Yama; if I have more thoughts I will certainly email you.
Earlier this month, no doubt on or soon after February 6, 2012, I went to Ping.fm to find a green bar on top of the area where I usually clicked to log in and get on with posting things to my social networks. Seesmic, apparently, had other plans. They really wanted to make sure I heard about their new product, Seesmic Ping. They covered the login link with a green bar to make sure I’d notice it.
All right, fine, I went to have a look. I didn’t feel like signing up for the new service, though. Instead, I dug up the blog post announcing Seesmic Ping, from February 6. Near the end, there was a very telling paragraph:1
For Ping.fm users – With the release of Seesmic Ping, we’ll look to maintain Ping.fm for some time. In the meantime, we encourage you to sign up for a Seesmic Profile and give Seesmic Ping a ride through our mobile applications or the web.
I wasn’t the only one made uneasy by those two sentences. “for some time” really doesn’t mean “indefinitely”, and sure sounds like Seesmic will eventually kill Ping.fm entirely.
I’ve had complaints over the years with Ping.fm, occasionally with performance. But most of them came from decisions made by Seesmic, explicitly or not, after they acquired Ping.fm. They were things like:
- No new API keys for applications
- Disabling API keys for applications like the Shorten2Ping WordPress plugin, instead of blocking the users who were spamming
- No new services for years
- Issues with existing services, like Jaiku (which Google later shut down completely about a month ago)2
- Broken post-by-email3
Despite all the issues following the Seesmic acquisition, Ping.fm has remained solidly usable. But Seesmic has now announced a successor to Ping.fm—and what’s more, they intend to charge for it (emphasis mine):4
We’ll look to have more features and services when Seesmic Ping comes out of beta as a paid service.
No pricing came with the announcement, just a notice that the new service would eventually cost money. I know we’ve all been spoiled by free Web services, and the money has to come from somewhere, but somehow I have my doubts that Seesmic will take an approach that is consumer-friendly. HootSuite has a great pricing model: Features that consumers will use (a few profiles, with one user who can manage them) are free; business-level features (more profiles, multiple-user collaboration) cost money. I don’t think Seesmic Ping will follow that structure; if I had to guess, everyone will have to pay for it.
I mean, really, Seesmic could have made the green bar push the entire page down, instead of floating it over the four tabs at the top. Look at what it covers:
It floated on top of the page for a reason, I’m sure. Putting it there made me click on it to make it go away (it didn’t). Then I read it, and followed the link. No doubt I followed the expected sequence of actions precisely. And that irritates me, because the green bar should have just looked like this:
I imagine that the reasoning went something like, “If it doesn’t cover the login link, users will ignore it. No, displacing the login link by 40 pixels isn’t enough; it has to actually be inaccessible. We will force users to read this bar on every single page.” Oh yeah, it pops up on every single page view. Home, login, Dashboard, settings, you-name-it—green bar ALL the pages… for lack of a better X all the Y idea.
There was also an email newsletter sent out on February 15, announcing Seesmic Ping, which I read after going through the whole “green bar” thing. It too addressed the future of Ping.fm… sort of:5
Like many of you, we appreciate the passion that Ping.fm brings, and made sure to carry over its core value of the simplicity in posting. With the launch of Seesmic Ping, we continue to enhance this service with reliability and robustness, while offering key features such as scheduling and the ability to post to multiple Twitter accounts and Facebook pages.
Eventually, Seesmic Ping will be a paid service. While in beta, Seesmic Ping is free to access. If you have any feedback, please tell us what you think: feedback.seesmic.com.
The email announcement carefully avoided any mention of shutting down Ping.fm. The original blog post never changed, though, so the plans are certainly still in place.
This state of affairs is really disappointing, because I’ve used Ping.fm as a staple of my online life for, literally, years. According to TweetStats, I’ve posted from Ping.fm more than I have from Twitter.com. (twhirl is still on top because I used to have it open all the time back in high school.) I post from the Web, from a third-party app on my Android phone, via SMS, and I used to use email posting from my mother’s cell phone back before I had my own. In short, I use Ping.fm a lot. It still is the best option I’ve found on the market for cross-posting to different social networks.
If Ping.fm goes away, I’ll probably end up switching to Hellotxt. Hellotxt has its own share of issues at the moment, including a lot of services that are disabled and a significant slowness to the site, but it’s still the best alternative to Ping.fm. I can also just roll up my sleeves and build my own personal system, since all of the sites I use provide free API access, but I’d rather not take the time to do that. It would also load my (very) shared server and lack a lot of features like posting via SMS6 and scheduled posting.7 Could I implement them? Sure. Would I take the time? Questionable. Additional features also mean additional server load, and so on.
The point is, I have only one practical alternative—Hellotxt—because building my own is hard, time-consuming, and unlikely to happen any time soon. I dream that Seesmic will change plans and decide not to kill Ping.fm, but the reality is that it’s almost certain to happen and the only question is when. Hopefully Hellotxt will have its issues worked out by then and will be ready to take over as king of the cross-posting niche. It would certainly serve Seesmic right if Ping never went anywhere, and that might be worth losing Ping.fm.
As for never using Seesmic, ever, well, let’s just say I oppose the way they do things. I don’t like it when a company buys another company, takes the ideas and technology from existing products, and then shuts down the old company’s services. Google does that a lot, and those are the times when I come closest to hating Google. The difference is, Google almost always creates awesome things out of the remains of old companies and services. Seesmic hasn’t really done anything but allow a useful product to stagnate, and now they’re going to kill it at some unspecified future date, replacing it with something that can never be a true replacement. You can’t replace a free service with a paid service; it doesn’t work that way.
If Seesmic takes their pricing structure in the same direction as HootSuite, though, and they only charge for certain features, I might actually give Ping a try. I have a hard time imagining a situation that would make me actually like Seesmic as a company, though.
- The paragraph was riddled with links to Seesmic.com, which I didn’t copy. There was no point. [↩]
- Unlike other social networks that died, Jaiku had a dedicated following willing to preserve its contents, if not the functionality. Apparently, my “presences” are archived. [↩]
- Added later on publish date (23:20 or so) when I discovered that Shorten2Ping had failed to post this article via Ping.fm. My server’s emails are working. The problem is with Ping.fm. Grr. [↩]
- Yes, I skipped copying another link to Seesmic.com. All occurrences of “Seesmic Ping” were linked except for one. I guess somebody missed it. [↩]
- And just like in the blog post, every occurrence of the phrase “Seesmic Ping” was linked to Seesmic.com. Talk about carpet-bombing links. [↩]
- If I’m not paying for Seesmic Ping, I’m certainly not shelling out for an SMS gateway to serve my one-user app. [↩]
- Ping.fm only has scheduled posting because HootSuite supports Ping.fm. It’s not native. Hellotxt has native scheduling, but I haven’t tested it yet. [↩]