By Jared Newman | Tuesday, November 17, 2009 at 5:10 pm
Here’s a telling moment from my first experiences with social networking on Xbox Live: While rifling through status updates on Facebook, I spotted a comment that seemed worthy of a response, which would’ve taken forever to type on my controller. Also, there was a Web link which the Xbox 360 couldn’t access. So I got off the couch, walked into the next room, and typed out a response on my computer, then spent the next five minutes looking at the Web site in question.
That’s a failure, and it carries over to Xbox Live’s Twitter implementation as well. Both features went live on the Xbox 360 today along with Last.fm’s Internet radio service and the Zune Marketplace, a facelift for the console’s existing video storefront that includes 1080p video and online movie-watching parties.
Of all the new features, I’m mostly interested in how the Xbox 360 does social networking. With Sony readying Facebook support on the Playstation 3, and the PS3 blockbuster Uncharted 2 allowing you to post in-game progress to Twitter, the games industry seems to be latching on to social networking.
Input is the obvious problem. Unless you spring for a $30 Xbox 360 Messenger Kit (which you’re cheerily reminded about when starting up Facebook), both networks feel trapped behind glass. You can read what other people are doing, but participating is a chore.
However, the feeling of looking-but-no-touching goes beyond input. On Twitter, you can’t visit Web pages because the console doesn’t have a Web browser. That’s too bad, because external links are as much a part of Twitter as the things people say. Facebook suffers from the same problem, and more: You can’t add friends, you can’t use apps and you can’t modify your profile. You can’t even poke people.
The major problem is that Facebook and Twitter are made for the open Internet, while the Xbox 360 is a walled garden. Looking at full-screen photo albums in Facebook is a redeeming quality, but ultimately social networking is incompatible with the closed system of consoles. I don’t expect to use Facebook or Twitter on the Xbox 360 too often, and when Facebook comes to the Playstation 3, I’m not expecting a markedly better experience.