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Twitter’s rise to one of the most popular social networks was driven in part by the open nature of the service, helped along by a number of third-party apps to access the network. This started changing last year though as Twitter banned certain apps to try and create a uniform experience.

Aaron White, co-founder of the third-party app Proxlet (which was one of the apps Twitter suspended), says in an email interview, “The diversity of the third-party ecosystem certainly contributed to Twitter’s fast rate of growth, considering how long it took them to launch an official iPhone client!"

According to Paris-based analyst group Semiocast, the social network had 517 million accounts as of July. That is a lot of eyeballs, and Twitter has begun to try and market to advertisers with expandable tweets (or a short blog with pictures and videos) and sponsored accounts under #Discover. As any regular user knows, there are two basic ways to access Twitter—you can either use your browser or an app. Apps range from the official Twitter application to custom applications that can use the features of the social network and give you a different experience.

Since the new official app can also serve ads, users might want a third-party experience instead, and there are a number of different apps to choose from there.

Monika Katkute, ideator and project lead at Lemon Labs, which created the Hashtag App for the platform in May, hopes that Twitter will remain an open platform for all developers. “If a third-party app is making tweets available in a more attractive and usable format, Twitter shouldn’t have an objection to that," she says.

Like to try different flavours of tweets? Then try some of these innovative, out-of-the-box apps for a different take on Twitter and support the third-party ecosystem that has made Twitter what it is:

Slices

Is your timeline flooded with inane tweets? Slices is a free third-party application which divides your stream into categorized information. Launched in August, Slices lets you “browse" your timeline. The app does three important things: First, it automatically divides your Twitter stream into neat categories like technology, celebrity, etc.. Second, it suggests new people to follow through its Explore tab, where it divides users by categories like News, Local, Celebs, Humour, Music, Tech and Science, etc. Finally, it lets you choose from live events and trending topics from around the world or locally, in a simple interface which is actually quite addictive to use.

slices.me

Free to download, on iTunes, Google Play and Web

Tweetcaster

With more than five million downloads on Google Play since its launch in October 2010, TweetCaster is the No. 1 app for Twitter on Android. It offers basic Twitter functions like timeline, compose, mentions, Direct Messages, favourites and lists. What sets it apart from even the official Twitter app is its search mechanism, called Search Party. It allows you to search not only your own timeline, but also someone else’s timeline, mention or favourites. It even allows you to search for tweets near your location.

Tweetcaster.com

Free to download, on Windows Phone, Google Play, iTunes, Samsung apps and BlackBerry. The ad-free TweetCaster in a unique pink-colour version is available for $10 (around 555).

Tweets between

This one’s meant for those who love to eavesdrop on conversations. Missed out on what your friends were chatting through tweets? Simply type in both their Twitter IDs on the Tweets Between website and see what their most recent conversation was all about. Launched in February, the app is quite addictive.

tweetsbetween.com

Free to use, on Web

Twicca

Created by Japanese developer Tetsuya Aoyama, this lightweight Twitter app gives you great filtering tools and basic Twitter app functions. The interface is clean, without too many buttons, icons and menus. Additionally the app has features like colour codes for lists or individual users so you never miss tweets from those important to you. It mutes overzealous tweeting individuals quite well too. The app is relatively new, having launched in May, but it comes with a lot of polish. It even has a built-in image viewer that supports a lot of image-hosting services—Flickr, yfrog, Twitpic, Posterous, etc.

twicca.r246.jp

Free to download, on Google Play

TweepsMap

A handy Web app, TweepsMap shows everyone who follows you on an interactive map layout. You can view the percentage of your followers by country, city or area once you authorize and connect the app with your Twitter account. Though it works on all interfaces of the Web, developer Samir Al-Battran, who created TweepsMap in October, suggests in an email that you use a bigger screen to see the visualization across the globe properly.

tweepsmap.com

Free to use, on Web

Twitflink

If you are looking for a link to what someone you follow (or don’t follow) tweeted a while ago, head to Twitflink. Enter the Twitter username (or user ID) of the person and click search. The website gives you all the links that the particular person has tweeted, ever. You can then filter the search by a keyword. The website launched in June 2010 and remains fast and efficient.

www.twitflink.com

Free to use, on Web

Photofon

For those who would like to experience Twitter visually, this is a nifty, small-sized app. The app, first released in May 2011, lets you see pictures shared as links in tweets in the same timeline inside the app, regardless of the photo service—unlike the official Twitter app, which opens these links in the browser. The app supports Instagram, img.ly, Twitpic, Flickr or yfrog. The photos show up against a dark background and can be pinched-to-zoom into for greater details. The app loads around 30 photographs in one go.

www.echofon.com/photofon

Free to download, on iTunes

Hashtag App

If you like to collect tweets around a particular hashtag, opt for the Hashtag App. Launched in early May by Lemon Labs, the app does exactly what its name says: It lets you follow Twitter and Instagram hashtags, merging the two into a single stream. All you’ve got to do is launch the app and enter the hashtag. Katkute, the project lead, says the app now comes with an update which has the ability to create hashtag graphics or “visual posters and infographics about the hashtag you follow". That can have a lot of possibilities for entrepreneurs and small businesses as they can easily convert a hashtag relevant for their company (think #fashion for an apparel brand) into a visual infographic for better understanding of their markets.

hashtagapp.com

Free to download, on iTunes. Google Play version coming soon

Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com

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