Miio is a new microblogging service which is a bit like a mashup between Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook and an RSS reader. Now typically, we don't like describing services as a "it's like a this plus a that," but Miio is precisely the kind of service that needs a little help in the "what this is" department.
Don't get us wrong, the concept itself isn't bad: a discussion board built around interests as opposed to popularity. It's just that the execution makes the service seem a little confusing.
So what is miio? That's what we're trying to figure out today.
Miio Members: Find New Friends
When you first sign up for miio, you can search for friends across your social networks and email accounts or you can skip that step and just search for other miio users who share your interests. This is perhaps the key feature in miio that differentiates it from many other social networks: it's not yet another site where you have to (either manually or automatically) re-create your social graph. It's a place to meet new people who share your interests.
Now whether you're supposed to chat them up or hit on them when you meet them is something I wasn't too clear about, given that miio asks for your "relationship status" and what you're "looking for" (friends, dating, chatting, "whatever") via your profile page. Those seem like features borrowed from Facebook, and frankly, if miio just wants to be discussion site, it could do without them.
Miio's Twitter-Like Dashboard
The miio Dashboard is reminiscent of Twitter, with its "replies" and "messages to me," the latter very much like Twitter's own DMs (direct messages). But unlike Twitter, you don't just follow tweets, err...posts, limited to 140 characters or less. Users can write as much as they want. And like Facebook, those status updates can be links, photos, videos, etc. as well. They can also be questions, which then puts miio up against Q&A sites like Quora, for example.
In fact, updates can even be RSS feeds thanks to a profile setting which lets you publish RSS to miio. Already a number of "members" have created miio accounts with RSS feeds - as you can see here by searching for *rss*. However, given the high profile nature of some of these accounts (ABC, AP, BBC, CBS, Huffington Post, etc.), it looks like miio created these accounts itself for others to follow, which is actually a handy feature.
From the Public Timeline or Search page, you can filter out whether or not you want to see RSS updates or whether you want to see just text updates, just photos, just videos, just questions and so on. If you switch the setting to "RSS only," miio could effectively function as a lightweight RSS reader for those who don't really do RSS.
There are also groups within miio, where you can discuss items of interest to you whether that's sports or iPads. But given miio's "early adopter" mindshare, the biggest groups seem to be tech-focused ones like those discussing iOS, startups or even miio competitor Google Buzz.
Final Thoughts: Too Much of a Good Thing, miio Needs to Diet
Although miio gets some things right, simplicity is not one of them. It's not clear yet what exactly miio wants to be when it grows up, why there's a need for this service and who should use it.
Our advice to miio, ditch the advanced feature set (it's overwhelming!) and focus on doing just one thing and doing it well. Groups, perhaps. Google Buzz lacks a "groups" feature and although FriendFeed has them, that service lost quite a few members after its Facebook acquisition. Do discussion groups and do them better than anyone else. And don't allow top followed members to dominate discussions like on Buzz, FriendFeed, Twitter and every other "social" service out there today. Make it more democratic.
And simplify, simplify, simplify. Twitter worked because it was basic and easy. That's how miio should start too. It can add in advanced filtering, location-based services, metadata and all the rest later on, if necessary. (Or perhaps not at all).
With a redirected singular goal like this, miio could have a chance at attracting not just the tech geeks who sign up for anything shiny and new but those who just like to go online and chat about things they're into, no matter what those may be. Obviously, the folks behind miio have the technical know-how to build a great service, now they just need to establish a sharper focus. Good luck, miio!