An Address Book for Twitter

Yesterday I tweeted that “Twitter needs an address book. Finding users is harder than it should be.” It was a sort of a throwaway tweet, one that I didn’t expect to think about a second time after it was out there, but I was surprised to find that it was re-tweeted at least a few dozen times throughout the day.

We could actually all spend an afternoon making a list of the many things that Twitter needs, but if the service added every single one of them, the end result would be its ruination, I’m sure. Still it really does feel to me that a more robust address book is a serious omission, and now I realize I’m not alone in thinking that. People really want some kind of address book on Twitter.

Some people took my tweet to mean that I wanted some central way of browsing for people that I don’t already follow, but in actuality what I mean is that I want to be able to sort through my current contacts with greater flexibility than is currently possible. Twitter’s current method sorts people I follow in reverse chronological order based on the date that I started following them. That’s moderately useful, but it would be even more useful to me if I could sort that list alphabetically. Or, even better, if this hypothetical address book could translate Twitter handles into real names too, which I’m often (though not always) more apt to remember than the obscure monikers that people often have to adopt when they join the service. I’d also like to see only the people I’ve corresponded with — via both mentions and direct messages — and sort those names by frequency and recency of correspondence, as well as alphabetically. And if these same added capabilities could be applied to the list of people who follow me, as well, that would be great.

That᾿s all I want, really. Otherwise Twitter is just perfect.



  1. The Tweetbot iPhone app does a nice job of providing an in-line address book of sorts when typing a tweet. Once you type an @ it pulls up a handy list of people you follow, with smart filtering as you type. Makes initiating a conversation much much simpler on a mobile device.

    This doesn’t really address your requests, but it was the first thing that came to mind when I saw the title of your post, and is a good indicator of the power an address book could have.

  2. Chris: Echofon does something similar when I try to jump to see a particular user’s tweets, I start typing a few letters and it auto-fills matching names. The problem is if I can’t remember what the first few letters of that user’s handle are, I’m lost.

  3. We often tend to forget nowadays that Twitter began as a very simple, dumb even, idea: to tell people “what are you doing?”. Period. Now, fast forward some years and a quadrillion users later, where uses for Twitter have sprung in a lot of ways beyond that. And while it’s tempting to demand Twitter to go feature crazy, it would just kill the simplicity principle it was originally founded on.

    Hootsuite -what I use since I decided to stop using installed clients long ago- also has the user autocomplete feature when replying to someone: Type “@” and a few letters, and matches from your followers appear. Still, one use I’d appreciate having an address book for is better follower management. When you are following hundreds or even thousands, finding someone to unfollow for spam or bot suspicions is not easy, let alone batch unfollow. And if such address book could use smart lists based on user metadata -a la iTunes- it would be heaven.

  4. It would be invaluable to be able to search those that you’re following. I’ve often wished for a way to search just my twitter timeline, also.

  5. I can definitely agree with needing an address book. I only follow about 200 but I’d like to be able to search through my contacts. I find that the people I follow are very valuable contacts. It would be nice to be able to contact them outside of Twitter whether via instant message or Skype or if I ever go to visit their hometown.

  6. Echoing some of the above, the apps I use (Seesmic and Destroy Twitter) both have reasonably good autocompletes.

    They /seem/ to be accessing a list of those I follow, or something, as they only do this for people I do already know. If just referring to some random person, such as retyping a “via @someone” it doesn’t find that person, no matter how much I type.

    I tend to think this might be the model that services like Twitter work best with. Offer enough data services that any number of UI solutions can be built, and the user picks the presentation that suits their style and functional needs the best.

    If I had time to blog about it, I suspect there’s something to be said about that being the core truth underlying a lot of mobile apps today, already. Hmmm…

  7. Hi Khol, you should try out Connected. It sounds like it does what you want. It creates an address book for every person in your network with combined profiles that incorporate their contact details from your address book, email, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

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