As Rumors Swirl About Google and Twitter, Remember Twitter's Open Source Roots

by Ostatic Staff - Apr. 03, 2009

In a post yesterday, I made the point that proprietary software applications are benefitting greatly from building on top of open source components. This is a beneficial trend that is largely missed by those who see open source as threatening to collapse proprietary software pricing models. In the blogosphere today, there is much hubbub over rumors that Google is about to buy Twitter. Without a doubt, Twitter has become a social phenomenon (many celebrities use it, in addition to nearly everyone else), and the company has already been offered hundreds of millions of dollars for an acquisition before. But did you know that Twitter is based largely on open source components?

In this post from Dana Blankenhorn, he refers to the "Twitter open source project." I'm not sure I would go so far as to say that it is an open source project. is a pure open source project, and a venture-funded Twitter competitor. However, Blankenhorn is absolutely right that Twitter is based largeley on open source components, and Twitter also releases open source tools.

Take a look at this post from Twitter, which confirms that:

"When we plan new engineering projects at Twitter, we measure our requirements against the capabilities of open source offerings, and prefer to use open source whenever it makes sense. By this approach, much of Twitter is now built on open source software."

Specifically, Twitter makes central use of Kestrel, an open source messaging queue server available at github. You'll find a good post from Kestrel's developer here. Twitter also uses the open source Cache-Money plug-in for Ruby on Rails. And, Twitter's Starling is a lightweight persistent queue server that it has released as open source.  

In my opinion, despite the fact that people are saying the current rumors are not accurate, Google is eventually going to buy Twitter. Twitter would fit right into Google's stated goal of "indexing the world's information." If it does buy Twitter, the price tag is going to be hundreds of million dollars--one of the biggest tech deals of the year so far. This is exactly why when people tell me that open source threatens to collapse the software industry, I remind myself that open source leads to new applications, new business models, and, yes, in some cases it leads to big money.