Gwibber – it may be Ubuntu’s default social client but do you use it? Chances are you don’t.

For despite have a great feature set and support for almost every major social networking site, Gwibber has been tarnished with a reputation for being slow, laggy, resource hungry and a notification-nuisance.

But come Ubuntu 11.10 Gwibber will be a very different beast.

Gwibber Redux

Gwibber 3.1 sees the social app get rewritten and redesigned. The Webkit interface of old has been traded for Vala and GTK3. the layout and look have been streamlined and the result is a fast, responsive and resource-efficient client.

So why the change?

The old python/webkit based client used way to much memory and it was rendered as a single static view which needed to be rendered each time anything changed.” Gwibber developer Ken VanDine told me when I asked about the reasons that led to the big revamp.

“It was hard to improve the experience in the old client without significant changes, so moving to Vala and GTK3 seemed like a natural choice. We also wanted to share more infrastructure with the Gwibber Unity lens.”

Big performance boost

As an example of just how efficient the ‘new’ Gwibber is Ken told us of a test he did shared with us the results from a test he conducted using the clients.

“The old client limited the stream to the latest 50 posts and would use about 150MB of RAM. The new client doesn’t limit the posts, in my test with 3000 posts in the stream it used about 42MB RAM.  

Not only is that 3000 posts in a stream, we keep all the streams “hot” for fast switching between them. So we actually have them all created and hidden.”

The result was more than noticeable when I took the the ‘new’ Gwibber for a spin earlier. Scrolling through Tweets is smoother, switching between views is faster and the appearance of new updates/tweets is far far quicker than Gwibber under Natty.

Snap test

I did take a quick at Gwibber’s resource usage whilst using the old client and then again under the new client. I left both open for the same amount of time (10 minutes) and both were tested under the same Ubuntu installation on the same computer.

Old Gwibber used, combined, around 100MB of RAM. The new Gwibber? Just 32MB. Oh how my netbook will rejoice.

A new look and new features

Gwibber 3.1 comes with a new look designed by Canonical’s Neil J Patel.

“From the start, the idea was to make a UI that would make people stop complaining about Gtk while making Gwibber the best client on Ubuntu. I think we’re slowly getting there.”

Slick animations accompany button presses and view changes. This might sound like a small ‘blingy’ touch but it’s one that makes Gwibber 3.1 more than match up to the dominant Twitter apps available for OS X and Windows.

Gwibber 3.1 also sees a number of much requested features implemented, such as sorting streams by oldest/newest posts first, and the planned search tool that ‘narrows what is displayed in the stream based on your search criteria’ sounds like a killer feature.

As soon as Google release an API for Google+ I’m told that Google+ will be supported in Gwibber.

Still in development

With Ubuntu 11.10 yet to hit Alpha 3 its not surprising to find some key features are in the process of being added. The majority of the missing functions are expected to land in advance of The Ocelots release in October.

And if all of the above hasn’t sold you on Gwibber 3.1 the following tidbit from Neil J Patel certainly should: –

“It’s going to have the cutest/nicest error messages you’ve ever seen ;)”

 Gwibber 3.1 will land in Ubuntu 11.10 shortly.

Thanks to Ken, Neil and Jorge

gwibber oneiric