Chat rooms have been around for decades now, fulfilling all types of purposes. The first online chat service was in 1980 (at least, according to Wikipedia) and they’ve developed significantly since then. However, with the rise in social media that encompass private and/or public group chat, these dedicated services have became somewhat less necessary. With Nurph, the bridge between social networks and dedicated chat rooms has been built.
Nurph takes a Twitter account and build a chat room onto the side. The idea is that Twitter users can create adhoc chat rooms for their followers to discuss matters in real time, while still maintaining their Twitter branding and profile information.
Nurph doesn’t require you to sign up and create a profile, instead opting to just use Twitter information to setup a new channel. By simply heading to Nurph’s website, you’re presented by a large text field in which you can type in a topic to start chatting about.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t what I expected. I was expecting to just type any topic in and have it work with hashtags, but it’s instead focused much more on users. If you go ahead and type in webappstorm, you’ll be presented with the chat room for the Web.AppStorm Twitter account. However, should you type in a hashtag, it simply won’t work.
When you do get your Twitter channel setup, you can start chatting. Nurph will even tweet you to tell you your channel is live and share a link that you can retweet to your followers. Once you’ve got your link and start chatting, everything’s setup and working, allowing you to commence discussion.
Nurph has a very simple interface, somewhat like the older Twitter designs. The top bar has only two functions, allowing you to sign in/out of your Twitter account (since no Nurph-specific account is required) and to type in a new channel to visit.
Below that is your chat room, split into three columns. The first is very Twitter-oriented, showing your profile picture and a stream of your tweets pulled in from the social network. The second holds your actual public chat room, organised by time, listing all the updates posted to it. The final column pulls in your Twitter profile description and a list of who’s in the current chat room.
Additionally, the background of the chat room will be the associated user’s Twitter background. This is a great bonus as you won’t need to specifically brand your chat room to be united with your other web properties.
Nurph is a surprisingly simple and straightforward application that’s connection to Twitter is great. The chat room itself works just as you’d expect and is little different to most other basic services.
Each of your messages in the chat room is just text, although links will be parsed and @replies will be linked to their respective Twitter account. That means there aren’t any inline images or videos, not even any smilies, which is a disappointment. Nurph is positioned like a superior alternative to group chat on Twitter so I feel like it should at least feature inline media as the social network does.
I mentioned before that Nurph chat rooms are based on Twitter accounts, but not hashtags. However, Nurph does still work with hashtags by publishing your chat room posts to Twitter, attached to a hashtag of the chat room’s name. This is nice since it allows you to keep the conversation available from within Twitter, but there are faults. I’d like to be able to choose a custom hashtag to attach tweets sent from my channel with and also to select which ones I wish to be sent out from Twitter and which ones I’d prefer to keep in Nurph. The latter feature especially is a significant omission.
Although it does have it’s faults, Nurph is a good app. It’s simple and straightforward, both in it’s functionality and interface. There’s much to praise about it, especially it’s connection to Twitter which allows it to be easily united with your virtual identity (through the branding elements like your profile image and background). The concept is great, but I can’t honestly see myself using it in the future.
The biggest flaw I see is that each chat channel is based on a twitter account, and not a hashtag. For example, if I were wanting to collect some feedback on a redesign, I could see myself using the service to create an ad hoc channel for a hashtag like #mysiteredesign since it can easily be disposed of later. However, I don’t feel like having a single chat room associated with a twitter account really fits anything I need.
Nonetheless, the service does what you’d expect in a simple, straightforward way, which is commendable. I simply can’t see if fitting a purpose myself, but it might do for you.