an Open Source, Federated Twitter Alternative

I’m here to talk about, who have great writeups by many leading lights, including ReadWriteWeb’s Marshall Kirkpatrick and VentureBeat’s MG Siegler (very clever, for sure).

Twitter, the increasingly vital information utility for the digerati, enjoys a love-hate relationship with its addicted user base, due to its unending series of outages. Many have called for an alternative to emerge, especially one that might have a distributed or federated approach to enable scaling with fault-tolerance.

With yesterday’s launch of social media feed utility service, Gnip, who were unable to secure an XMPP feed from Twitter in time for their debut, that chorus began to rise. Enter, a full-on Twitter clone with an open source, federated twist.

Is this a big deal? It’s certainly way too soon to tell. But Twitter’s strength to-date has been winning passionate loyalty from the super-connected early adopters, and those are exactly the people who are jumping on to’s train (at least for exploration’s sake).

My take? First, a confession. I am jealous of my friend Chris Messina, who has thousands of followers on Twitter. I have just a little over 500. Why? (Aside from the fact that Chris is truly deserving of a large audience?) [Full disclosure: Chris is the newest member of the “Social Web Fab Four” on the TV show that we’re launching next week. Check out the pilot here.] A key part of the reason I have so few followers is that I was late to adopt Twitter. Yep. I just didn’t get the power of microblogging until after the early adopter land-grab was over.

Okay, so basically, my sense is that is happening all over again. And my advice is that if you love Twitter (but wish you had more followers), you may want to invest some time now in helping build up Yes, you’ll have to put up with climbing over some scaffolding, as this is clearly a work-in-progress.

But, go ahead. Jump in. Oh, yes, and “subscribe” to me, please. πŸ™‚

I’m johnmccrea there.

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10 thoughts on “ an Open Source, Federated Twitter Alternative

  1. parislemon says:

    Thanks John. I hope takes on and pushes openness. Just trying to temper the hype πŸ™‚

  2. Wouldn’t it be interesting if could run off a distributed network in a similar way that the SETI@Home initiative uses spare capacity to process data?

  3. maurice says:

    i totally agree: running a microblogging platform on a opensource software doesnt make it better comparing to twitter. it needs to be 100% distributed…

  4. @Paul Jacobson: my understanding is that it can, in a way. it appears to be compatible with any other network running the OpenMicroBlogging protocol. so if you want to handle your own data, or open a competing server, all you have to do is install laconica on your own server, and you can publish to users of any other OMB platform.

  5. It is interesting to watch this process in action. If the developer community moves or supports in existing tools and products that are currently twitter-only, then that could be an imputus for a big move. Everybody talks about users moving without thinking about the other half of the ecosystem..

  6. therealmccrea says:

    Indeed, Nik. Will be interesting to watch; there are a lot of moving parts.

  7. Christopher says:

    Hi John,

    I wonder if having more followers on any of these services is actually all that useful other than a way to stroke ones own ego.

    Does having more followers add to the quality of the conversation?

    I suppose it could if you know all those people or they are making comments that are more insightful than “oh yeah me too”. But from what I have seen more is not better it’s just more (noise) which in fact detracts from the usefulness of these services and the conversations we are trying to have. Sure we can block people but now we’re into a management loop that can become cumbersome.

    I think twitter is a great tool and may become own with good developer innovation but more users for the sake of more users seems like an odd goal.

    Of course I am no social communication expert so I may be out to lunch.

    Love the blog,


    P.S. I have 7 followers and no none of them. πŸ˜‰

  8. therealmccrea says:

    Thanks, Christopher!

    I don’t think having more followers necessarily improves the quality of the conversation, but it clearly helps high quality stuff spread faster to a wider audience, which, in turn, should create opportunities for quality conversations to emerge.

  9. Christopher says:

    Hi John,

    Very true…

    My only worry I suppose is having a large number of “unknown” or “un-vetted” followers can also bring the noise level up so high it’s hard to allow the quality stuff to emerge. Heck even with vetted followers the noise can be pretty darn loud sometimes.

    I suppose one thing I need to look at or reevaluate within the concept of a life streams is “what is noise”, maybe nothing is, it’s a new way of approaching connectedness.



  10. joe gelb says:

    whether identica is big or not i always like joining early to get those honors, and i like small communities because they tend to be easier to leverage.

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