Twitter popularized micro-blogging, indeed, but it isn't fair to say they started it. There are many other micro-blogging services, such as Tumblr, Plurk, Jaiku, and -- my favorite -- Identi.ca. What I like most about Identi.ca is its focus on software related topics (well, that isn't its intended focus, but its users' apparent focus.) That said, Identi.ca is also basically Twitter's liberated equivalent.
Here are a few things Identi.ca does better than Twitter:
Your Timeline - Always Updating
Unlike Twitter, Identi.ca's timelines don't just alert you when a new "tweet" is available -- giving you a link to refresh the page -- but instead has that and an option to allow new posts (or dents) to appear on your timeline in realtime as they are posted. In order to get the Twitter behavior you just click the "Pause" button (pages first load paused.)
File Attachments - Twitter Doesn't Have This One
On Identi.ca you can attach files to your posts, be it photos, music, documents, small programs, whatever. People can then view or download (depending on the file) your attachment. This completely removes the need for services like Twitpic and Twitvid.
Pop-up Window - Your Timeline Can Always Be Visible
Identi.ca has the nice little option of opening your realtime timeline in a pop-up window, from which you may view and reply to notices from either the "Public Timeline" or your "Personal" timeline. The pop-up is a good feature because you can move the window to the edge of the screen and continue working, your timeline can easily be seen at all times, unlike if it's open as a tab.
In Context - Posts Always Make Sense
Have you ever seen a person's Tweet and think to yourself "How does that response make any sense?" -- of course there are multiple ways this reaction can occur -- posting on Twitter is like posting on a forum without replies and instead of posts being sorted newest last (1, 2, 3) they are sorted alphabetically -- you just can't tell who is talking to who about what and when.
On Identi.ca you reply to notices in context. When you reply to a notice, a "Conversation" is started or you are added to the "Conversation" if one is already started. The "Conversation" is a threaded log of posts and replies according to context, person, date, time, etc.
Other Settings - Shorten URLs With
Identi.ca allows you to set which URL shortening service you would like to use, either 2tu.us, is.gd, metamark.net, ptiturI.com, snipr.com, tinyurI.com, or ur1.ca, respectively. Each of these services offer different things, and each service shortens your post's length differently. Twitter seems to either only use one service, or 2 or 3 services it chooses as best for you.
Innovation - Now Twitter Is The Copycat
Twitter didn't always have the "Retweet" feature, and indeed, neither did Identi.ca, but Identi.ca had replies since before I joined (which happened before Twitter implemented the "Retweet" feature, when all you could do was tweet "RT: Blah, blah, blah" and that doesn't count as the "Retweet" feature.
Identi.ca also had the "Share My Location" feature long before Twitter did, both of these features are implemented better on Identi.ca than on Twitter. Identi.ca's "Share My Location" interacts nicely with Firefox's Geolocation feature, and gives accurate locations, you may also adjust the location to make it precise and Identi.ca even has a map displaying where in the world the post came from.
Clever Usage Of Identi.ca's Pop-up Window in Firefox
Here is how you can use Identi.ca's Pop-up Window feature without the need for a second window:
- Bookmark this URL http://identi.ca/?realtime=1 (<username>/all?realtime=1 for your own timeline).
- Once bookmarked, view the bookmarks properties and select "Load this bookmark in the sidebar"
- Close properties. Click bookmark.
You will now have the realtime timeline open in your Firefox sidebar, but remember, you will have to be logged in for this to work. This is quite useful actually.