PeopleBrowsr herds the passing throng

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Social butterflies who like the Tweetdeck columns-and-groups model for keeping track of one's connections but need FriendFeed's ability to keep an eye on on other social networks will enjoy PeopleBrowsr, currently in open alpha.

The goal, as PeopleBrowsr's FAQ says, is to bring all one's online identities to one place. When we visited, that meant Twitter, Digg, LinkedIn, Flickr, FriendFeed,, Photobucket, Seesmic, and YouTube. FaceBook support is explicitly mentioned in the QuickTour but wasn't available for our purposes.

Once you've given PeopleBrowsr enough information to sign in and load all your various services, you can simply click on the icons for the services and scroll back and forth along the main dashboard to watch them all updating. Or if you prefer, you can look at your friends service-by-service in a picture grid, drilling down to individual profiles and update streams as you wish.

There's also a "feedosphere" option, which shows all the updates currently streaming through each service's ether. We found that amusing for about 30 seconds, until the flickering of the constant updates got to be too visually stressful (and we started to worry about hitting the notorious per-hour Twitter limits).

Services loaded and updated fine in the 0.70 version, on the whole, though we certainly missed Facebook, and suspect that our LinkedIn connections were updating more than the dashboard would show us. But things get really interesting when you take some time to build Groups -- PeopleBrowsr's most appealing feature and one that will merit all the love the developers can give it.

The grouping concept's familiar to Tweetdeck users -- figure out which of the streams you follow "belong together" (e.g., Friends, News Feed, Fictional Characters) and redisplay their Tweets in a column of their own. PeopleBrowsr broadens the concept beyond just Twitter, allowing you to tag and group members of different services together. Even better, you can mass-message members of a group, something that'll doubtless come in handy when your sewing circle changes its weekly meeting time. Or whatever.

For alpha, the service is remarkably stable; we tested it on both a PC and a Mac and had reasonably good results from both. The interface is a bit obscure in spots, and uses Twitter terminology in places that Twitter terminology probably isn't meant to go, but the interface designers have been meticulous about explaining themselves with rollovers and a pretty-good-for-alpha FAQ. If your social networking whirl regularly threatens to turn into a deadly whirlpool, keep PeopleBrowsr in mind as a potential flotation device.

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