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January 21, 2010

Interview with Seesmic’s Loic Le Meur on Seesmic Look

Today Seesmic has announced a brand new Twitter app for the Windows Platform specifically designed for the mainstream consumer called Seesmic Look. Seesmic Look brings a lot to the table making it easy for the average consumer, like your mom, to digest and take in Twitter content. This Windows app works with or without a Twitter account! Earlier this week in the midst of traveling to New York for today’s event, Seesmic’s Loic Le Meur was able to spare some time to chat with me about Seesmic Look. We go into great detail on Seesmic Look and the future of Seesmic including some discussion on Seesmic for Windows! Loic is Seesmic’s Founder and CEO. Business Week Magazine named Loic as one of the 25 most influential people on the web recently.

Brandon LeBlanc: Seesmic Look is your new application. Tell us about it, what is different, and why should users download it right away?

Loic Le Meur: So, Look will be our “avatar” of Twitter clients because it is an entirely new category that is aiming at providing very rich and engaging ways for end-users to interact with Twitter. Basically for anyone – not just the computer savvy (or what we call “the geeks”). And that is what Look is. Helping, you know, anyone getting information and interact with Twitter in a way that we believe has never been done before. Especially thinking about, you know, people watch CNN and hear about Twitter, people been watching Oprah and heard about Twitter, and they may not have a Twitter account, they likely don’t have a Twitter account yet, and we’ve designed Look for them. It’s for everyone else basically who doesn’t use Twitter yet.


Brandon: So you don’t have to have a Twitter account to use Seesmic Look? It can totally be used and is accessible to the general consumer that doesn’t have a Twitter account – correct?

Loic: It’s the very first application that we know of that lets you interact, that lets you read, get information, get news about all your favorite topics without having to have or use a Twitter account – at all. The reason we made that choice is because we wanted it to be accessible to anyone. So you just download Look, you get it up and running instantly, and nothing prevents you from reading information – enjoying information about celebrities, about sports… but we’ll come back to that. Anything that is interesting to you. That’s something that no one has done, something that no one has done via the user experience and is rich and engaging.

The other thing really is we tried to make it feel like an experience close to watching TV if you just want to consume information and you can just sit back and relax and watch Twitter. That is something also that no one else has done and a very engaging, rich, way you can obviously… you can even use Look from your couch if you like with a remote control, something else that is new.

But the other thing which makes Look entirely unique is you can interact with it using touch. So it’s been optimized and is usable with all the new devices that use a touch UI. But also a remote control so you can actually sit from a couch and watch Twitter and that is absolutely new and extremely addictive. We’re trying to get an experience very close to watching TV – the other thing you can do with Look is use the “TV mode” button for Look (Note: in the app it is called Playback Mode). If you click it, you can see the tweets coming to you without doing anything. And that is also very entertaining because it is what enables Look to basically watch Twitter.


Brandon: So what you’re saying is if I have a Media Center PC in my living room, I could put Look on that PC that’s connected to my 42” LCD HDTV and using my Media Center remote to navigate and play around with Look like I would Media Center, right?

Loic: Exactly. I’ve been using it for a few weeks myself on a HP TouchSmart PC. And just using it and navigating it with my fingers or the remote control which is provided. It’s a very new way to interact with Twitter and also what I enjoy myself and we’re expecting our users to also enjoy is that you can go to your favorite categories. For example if you want to follow what is happening in Haiti and you really want to stay on top of news coming in you can select the “news” section of Look and put it in TV mode and let it run this way, all day if you like, which is also something not done before, and just watch the news coming in to you straight onto your, yeah, pretty much like a Media Center experience absolutely. It would be totally appropriate to have on a, you know, a LCD screen or TV – anything like that.

Brandon: You’ve talked about Seesmic Look making Twitter accessible for everyone. How does this change the experience for someone that is using Twitter for the very first time?

Loic: Basically we make it very easy for them to learn and also to discover users – which is why we have the directory there because when you start on Twitter you need to find people to follow. And also mainstream non-tech savvy users want to find popular names and brands. And that is what we have built into Look as well. When you open Look and go to News you will see the Wall Street Journal, you will see CNN, you will see brands that are reassuring for mainstream users and the same with celebrities or sports.

Brandon: What sorts of things does Seesmic Look bring to the table for consumers to consume Twitter content, like what are some of the features they will take advantage of?

Loic: The very first one is that we make it simple to consume information. First, the way Look opens is that it opens on Trends. So it gives you the most current trends and lets you go deep real-time wise on what everybody is talking about. Then what we have created entirely exclusively for Look and something Seesmic has never done before is a directory of interests so that you can go and check the main categories we have.

We have News, we have Sports, we have Entertainment, Celebrities, and I could go on and on but these are again consistent to our goal of helping Twitter reach the masses and with everybody watching TV and reading newspapers – this is very different. Basically Twitter has reached a point now it has to go mainstream. To go mainstream, it has to be extremely simple, to enter it and access it, for users who don’t know Twitter at all. So that’s a goal I think we’ve achieved with Look.


For example if you go to Celebrities and you hit (click) one of those Twitter accounts you will see that the user interface is extremely rich and innovative in the fact that we use the Twitter background for that celebrity (from their profile) and display it as the entire background in the application.



And so basically each time you check the user or celebrity or go to CNN you will have a unique experience per user. It offers environment which is something very, very new.

Brandon: What’s the difference between Seesmic Look and Seesmic for Windows?

Loic: Seesmic for Windows is an application which become quite popular is really designed for more of the power user. For daily, multiple hours a day users who almost some of them use it at a professional level to manage their communities where as Seesmic Look is really again designed for the mainstream, for people who will interact with Twitter with help – we should come back to that – we made it very easy to create a Twitter account and we are partners with Twitter on this application. But it is really designed for my mother – for “normal” people where Seesmic for Windows is a full featured application for current Twitter users to really manage their community online and are already into social networks and that is very different.

Brandon: Seesmic Look introduces several new features never before seen in a Twitter client – one of those is branded Channels. Can you tell me a little bit more about Channels?

Loic: Our objective was to get in front of the new Twitter users or people who are discovering it, with a reassuring environment with brands they trust and they know. We are working with a group of launch partners and what we call a channel is a branded environment, which is basically a piece of real-estate we created from scratch that is very rich in terms of interaction. And that lets the user access those brands and environments they know. So you will find Red Bull in there for example. As launch partners – we have a number of brands free that will feature more than other than just Red Bull.


So if you go to Red Bull, you will find an environment that basically respects the way the brand communicates to consumers. And what they (Red Bull) chose to feature to them (consumer). And you will see that it’s not actually featuring the products at all but it’s more about featuring the Twitters who are basically in the Red Bull environment in all their different categories like Air, Athletic, Moto, Action, and so on and so forth. And when you get into that, you find you can actually discover interesting Twitter users and athletes who can do all kinds of things like jumping out of airplanes, doing some moto-racing, and so on. And this is just for Red Bull.

This is one example of something never done before in any (Twitter) application that brings so much integration of the brand environment which is entirely powered by Twitter.

We have a number of brand launch partners, and we’re very excited to make this real-estate available in Look.

Brandon: Now you’ve been very busy lately. In December you announced Seesmic for Windows, you’ve announced a few mobile apps, and you’ve acquired and now you’re launching Seesmic Look. So what’s next for Seesmic?

Loic: We’re very busy and we’re the only company in the Twitter ecosystem that operates on so many screens. And that is a vision we shared with Ray Ozzie on stage at the PDC conference where Ray explained he wanted Microsoft and specifically Silverlight and Windows to help developers get on all the screens and that’s exactly what we’re doing because as you said we’re on 2 mobile platforms, to answer your question we have more mobile platforms coming. We want to be everywhere the consumer is in terms of interacting with Twitter and social networks. That includes the desktop and also on the web.

So Look completes our offering because we felt really strongly that we needed an application that could be used by the millions of users who aren’t power users.

And what’s coming next is something we’ve announced at PDC – we’re working on a plug-in architecture for Seesmic for Windows which is coming together very well with the next month. And that will open new opportunities for developers to tap into our user base which will be to create any form of application and services that can get integrated into Seesmic for Windows. So right now geo-location is very fashionable and there are a number of applications in that field like Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp – we want to support all of them. But with a small time, obviously we cannot build everything that is available (into Seesmic for Windows) ourselves so the plug-in architecture will allow anyone to create a plug-in and get in to Seesmic for Windows. We’re getting ready to launch this in the coming months and is our main focus right now (after of course launching Look!).

Brandon: In a world where some people are talking about everything going to the web, Seesmic has made an investment and a bet on these apps running on richer client experiences. Why is that important?

Loic: I agree many people have been explaining everything should go web-based, and while we have Seesmic Web for our pure Web presence, we believe there are a number of interactions and user experiences that you cannot provide when you’re only web-based. And there is a category of users who really value that design and that experience that you can only do/get in a desktop application. Or even a mobile application. And it’s the same on mobile by the way, you have a lot of web clients which work really well with applications but you can see by how mobile apps are downloadable – mobile apps are booming these days which shows the desktop and mobile applications have a huge future ahead of them.

There is no other way to provide that kind of interaction which is very close to somewhat like a gaming environment than just reading webpages. And we really believe that interaction and design are extremely important and probably more important than features themselves. Look is fully featured of course but the look and feel of Look is very unique because it’s an application. And it couldn’t be made on a web app at all – and we really think it’s going to make a big difference.

Brandon: Thanks Loic for taking the time to talk us through Seesmic Look today and congrats on an awesome release! It’s fantastic to see Seesmic launch such a bleeding-edge Windows app for consuming Twitter content.

So what are you waiting for?

Go download Seesmic Look today and give it a spin!

If you’ve got some not-so-tech-savvy family members or friends who might like to read what’s happening in the “Twitterverse” you should point Seesmic Look out to them. I know my mom is going to love Seesmic Look to follow all the celebrity tweets. She loves that kind of stuff. But even some of my more geeky friends will also love Seesmic Look.

Pssst, you Seesmic for Windows fan outs there keep your eyes peeled… I’m told a Seesmic for Windows update is coming soon!