A few months ago, the social networking site Twitter made an important update to its API, which necessitated some serious scrambling by third-party users of the previous API version. One of the third-party clients was Easy Chirp, the accessible, cross-platform Twitter alternative. Many users were forced to find other ways to tweet their updates while Easy Chirp and other Twitter clients either faded into the sunset, or in the case of Easy Chirp, went down, but not out, for the count.
Dennis Lembree (@DennisL), creator of Easy Chirp, decided this API update presented an opportunity to rebuild Easy Chirp, updating the back-end architecture and adding some new bells and whistles.
After months of a from-the-ground-up rebuild, Easy Chirp is back. Just within the last week, Lembree quietly reintroduced Easy Chirp, with a middle-of-the-night tweet announcing a “soft launch.”
Happily, Dennis had already invited me to test drive the beta version, which can be found at www.easychirp.org for now. The revised app will be available on the regular dot com domain during the official launch, reportedly within a few weeks. I was so excited that my preferred web-accessible Twitter client was back, I immediately flew to the site to check it out.
The first thing I noticed, which surprised me, was that the new version is almost exactly the same as the previous version. For some reason, I had expected a completely new look and feel. However, the differences between old and new versions quickly became obvious. The “under the hood” changes are what make Easy Chirp 2 a new experience.
First, it is much faster. I am using NVDA as my screen reader and the latest version of FireFox as my browser. Wow…The page loads and navigation were blistering fast. Also, because of improved page organization in some areas, navigating from various elements has been streamlined.
Mr. Lembree partnered with Seattle developer Andrew Woods (@awoods) to complete the project. After considering a number of partners for the work, he chose Woods because of his experience with PHP. Mr. Woods recommended a PHP development framework called CodeIgniter. One reason Lembree decided to go with this framework was that it offers translation features, allowing Easy Chirp to be translated into multiple languages. First after English will be Spanish, says Lembree, which is “about 98% done.” German and Arabic translations are in the works, and other languages such as French are also planned for future availability.
While Woods worked on the back-end architecture, Lembree focused on the front end, populating the data and reworking many aspects of the user interface. “Between the new PHP framework and the new Twitter API, it’s a lot faster,” says Lembree. “Another one of the big coding changes is moving from XHTML to HTML5,” he adds.
There are a few new features of the platform. Notably, the option to choose a dark or light theme, which is useful for people who have light sensitivity or difficulty with light/dark contrast perception. One of Lembree’s favorite new features is the “quick search,” and the “go to user” functions, which are accessible modal windows. If that means nothing to you, I suspect this is one of those esoteric’s that only a developer can truly appreciate.
There is a short list of development tasks that are yet to be completed, which you can review on the Easy Chirp 2 home page. Among the most important of these tasks is the addition of a pagination type of behavior, available currently only on the main timeline page through a link at the bottom that reads, “view older tweets.” More tasks and features are planned but not yet made public.
If you enjoyed using Easy Chirp prior to the “API-pocalypse,” (I still can’t stop saying that, I’m so proud of it), then give Easy Chirp 2 a try. Don’t forget to click on the “donate” button on the home page, and thank Dennis and Andrew for their hard work by tossing a few bucks in the development tip jar.
About Dennis Lembree:
Mr. Lembree has over 15 years experience in web development. He’s worked for a variety of startups as well as large companies including Ford, RIM, Disney, and is now on the accessibility team at PayPal in San Jose, California. Mr. Lembree enjoys attending and presenting at conferences and social media. And besides Easy Chirp, he runs WebAxe.org, a blog and podcast on web accessibility.