ISV creates open-source alternative to Twitter

Laconica application has plenty of use in the enterprise space.

Wikitravel and Certifi.ca founder Evan Prodromou launched last week an open-source microblogging tool that will give users -- including those in the enterprise -- an alternative to industry leader Twitter.

Prodromou crafted an open source platform called Laconi.ca and a hub site, Identi.ca, to combat the "walled garden" situation of the Web 2.0 world where users can put content in, but they can't take it out. (Case in point: Robert Scoble being kicked off Facebook for running code to port out his many contacts.) "There's something not really Web-y about it," said Prodromou. "We want a Web that is open, that crosses boundaries, and that uses open standards."

People can use the Laconi.ca platform to brand their own microblogging for their own site, or as a sub-site. (This is where the revenue will come in eventually; running on a "freemium" model, those who do extensive rebranding of the platform for their own presence or company, or boast hundreds of users, will pay a fee.)

Marshall Kirkpatrick of the blog "Read Write Web" is also stoked on the fledgling technical specification OpenMicroblogging, which "allows users of one supporting subscription to send and receive messages securely across different microblogging services," thus ensuring improved interoperability for users.

Prodromou said that this application has plenty of use in the enterprise space, where workers can use--and already are using--microblogging to communicate with each other and update coworkers on project progress or whereabouts.

"In corporations, you often really want to manage the application, including the way people use it and the look-and-feel, to safeguard the company's reputation. This will give you a little more control and allow you to scale out correctly," he said, pointing out that Twitter itself began as an internal workplace communication tool.

It will also be a good fit with the more mobile and Web 2.0-enabled companies that can then field communiques from SMS, text, IM, and the Web in one standardized place. He said that he's had some interest so far from businesses wanting to know more about the technology's possibilities. Those who just want to use the new program sans re-branding or manipulating can just use it via the hub site of Identi.ca. The site has accumulated over 8,000 registered users since yesterday, and has posted over 17,000 messages so far. "It's been a huge strain on our servers!" laughs Prodromou.

Canadian tech bloggers were quick to weigh in on the new service. Mark Evans of "A Canadian Take on the Web" cited the open source framework and the use of the .ca domain as making it different, but couldn't find any other differentiators about the program in its current form (he also called it inferior to other recent Twitter rival, Plurk).

Startup North's Jevon MacDonald and RSS pioneer Dave Winer both think that the open source aspect is a differentiator enough, with MacDonald foreseeing the paradigm shift inspiring a "long-tail of microblogging," and luring away those turned off by the stuff, proprietariness of the big boys. Over at "Venture Beat," however, MG Siegler said that users won't be lured away, but might be pushed...or not.

Said Siegler: "That's why I've said in the past that the only thing that can kill Twitter is Twitter itself. If the service keeps failing to work, people will leave not out of choice, but out of necessity. I don't think that's going to happen because I think Twitter will right its ship before we get to that point."

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Briony Smith

Computerworld
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