Joint Turns Twitter Into an IM Service

Twitter DM’s are a simple and effective way of getting in touch with people, but they don’t quite feel like real-time chats, as you never know if the other person is actually currently online. Joint, a new project from the team behind content discovery service Lazyfeed, piggybacks on Twitter’s social graph and allows you to turn your social network on Twitter into a fully featured IM system. Joint offers one-on-one and group chats. It’s basically a private backchannel to Twitter.

Joint is currently in private alpha, but if you would like an invite, follow me and @imjoint on Twitter and leave me a comment with your Twitter handle below.

Getting Started

After you join Joint, you just have to install the service’s AIR-based desktop client and you are ready to go. The client is very straightforward, with a three-pane setup that shows you which of your Twitter friends are currently online on the right, your open chats in the middle, and the chat window on the right. New rooms can be public, protected by a password or completely private. You can also limit the number of people who are allowed into a room.

Joint alpha 1

The chat feature itself is text-only and it, too, is about as straightforward as it gets. Groups are semi-persistent (meaning they will disappear once the last person leaves) and there is no archive or the ability to see messages that were posted to a group before you joined. Joint doesn’t use any of Twitter’s own messaging APIs, so your messages on Joint won’t appear in your Twitter timeline or as DMs in your Twitter client.

As Louis Gray rightly notes, Joint feels quite a bit like the Y Combinator-backed Convore, though it’s neither browser-based, nor focused quite as much on group chats (though among the early adopters, this is definitely one of the main usage scenarios right now).

As Joint’s Ethan Gahng told me, the team also thinks that the app could be useful in meeting new people. When you are in a chat room, after all, you will likely meet friends of friends that you weren’t following on Twitter yet.

For now, Joint still stands as a separate entity from Twitter. It would be nice if it also included a few more basic Twitter features as well, including the ability to see regular Twitter DMs and @mentions and reply to them, for example (though Twitter is obviously discouraging the development of new third-party clients).

Overall, though, this looks like a very promising product with the potential to change how you think about Twitter DMs.