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Microsoft ditches Facebook, Twitter apps on Xbox Live

A new (and mandatory) Dashboard update for owners of Microsoft's Xbox 360 is throwing a few new features into the mix, depending on what status of "user" you are — a free Silver account holder versus a paid-for Gold account holder.

However, Microsoft's also taking the axe to two features that might not have been as frequently used by most gamers, but are nevertheless fairly long-standing parts of the Xbox 360 ecosystem at this point. It's time to wave a fond farewell to Facebook and Twitter – the Xbox 360 apps, at least – as Microsoft's update officially boots these apps off the console.

According to a Microsoft representative, as reported by IGN's Mitch Dyer, the company's "retiring the Facebook and Twitter apps," and it's unclear what, exactly, Microsoft means by its reasoning: The move will allow Microsoft to "streamline" app functionality.

The two apps have made a home on the Xbox 360 for the past three years. There's no indication of just how many gamers in total actually used Facebook or Twitter to update their online goings-on from the comfort of their gaming consoles – typing in status updates without a chatpad can be a pain – although the Facebook app at least allowed gamers to more easily find their Xbox Live friends in the real world (or vice versa).

Twitter, however, was just that: A means for reading 140-character updates and/or posting them yourself without ever having to grab your smartphone or laptop to do so.

Microsoft suggests that Xbox Live Gold gamers can use Internet Explorer 9 – a new app arriving by way of the autumn Dashboard update – to update their Facebook or Twitter statuses going forward.

However, the Xbox 360 now lacks a solid method for connecting real-world friends to Xbox Live gamertags. Admittedly, the Facebook app didn't provide the most useful service, in that a gamer had to first install the app him or herself in order to be found by others.

Now, knowing gamertags remains the only way to actually friend people on Xbox Live. That's a bit behind the times compared to gaming services like Valve's Steam (PC-only), which allow you to find friends via Facebook connections and – even better – assign them nicknames once you've added them.