Google Opens JaikuEngine, Fanning the Flames of Open Micro-Blogging

by Ostatic Staff - Mar. 15, 2009

In the past ten months, I've become hopelessly addicted to micro-blogging. It's not solely because I like the sound of my own keyboard clacking -- it's a quick, easy way to stay connected and informed. Like countless others, I started with the ubiquitous Twitter service, but have recently found myself using, based on the open source platform, more often.

The world of micro-blogging isn't confined to two or three services, of course. Remember Jaiku? Jaiku, after it was purchased by Google in 2007, fell relatively silent. Late last summer, the service was again offered to the general public through an unlimited number of invitations. In January, Google announced it was shutting down Jaiku (and a few other services) without much explanation.

ReadWriteWeb directs our attention to an announcement posted on Jaiku's Jaikido blog stating that Jaiku is now running on Google's App Engine, and that its code base, now known as JaikuEngine, has been open sourced under the Apache license 2.0.

What does this mean for Jaiku, open micro-blogging platforms, and Twitter?

Let's start with Twitter. Simply put, Twitter now faces increased pressure -- it needs to innovate faster, improve its stability to support new innovations and growth, and whether it likes it or not, it needs to play well with others. Twitter is the big dog in the pack, but if it gets nipped by enough smaller dogs -- smaller dogs with modestly different but infinitely adaptable features -- it will need to rethink its approach to maintain its status.

For example, as the ReadWriteWeb piece states, Twitter is testing OAuth (which JaikuEngine also supports). OAuth is an open standard for secure API authentication. OAuth makes using Twitter with third party applications more secure -- but it also gives users better control of where their information ultimately goes. A significant selling point of open source micro-blogging platforms is the amount of control they offer.

The other, of course, is interoperability and the flexibility it affords. Jyri Engestrom, Jaiku's co-founder, says that while Jaiku doesn't talk to other platforms (yet), he hopes that opening the code will help that happen faster. Interoperability is increasingly important -- and while my account can update my Twitter account, and I can keep tabs on it all reasonably well with Gwibber -- the lack of communication between services makes them impractical, if it doesn't completely render them useless in some situations.

Interoperability might always be a challenge between different platforms, but in an open source environment, it is at least possible. Interoperability gives content you've created on these services permanence. Migrating and moving accounts and content between services ought to be simple -- but at the very least, it needs to be possible.

ReadWriteWeb wonders if Jaiku will become real competition for Twitter, or just quietly fade away. I don't think it's quite that simple. Twitter has momentum, and strong features, but because of its popularity and the technical challenges related directly to its success, it is in many ways its own worst enemy. Can Jaiku be a threat to Twitter on its own? Probably not. Can Jaiku, paired with other open source platforms that communicate and work together, take on Twitter? Without a doubt -- especially if Twitter is slow to recognize and respond to the pressure.