Laconica: Can Open Source Save Twitter?

by Ostatic Staff - Jul. 03, 2008

Lots of people are addicted to microblogging service Twitter - including substantial chunks of some open source communities. There are a fair number of Ruby on Rails developers twittering these days, for example. But Twitter's scaling and reliability issues lately have many people wondering whether it's time to look for an alternative., backed by open source package Laconica, wants to be that alternative.

There's a lot to like about Laconica from a design standpoint. It supports OpenID for logins,is completely free software, and is designed to apply a Creative Commons license to all the traffic that it carries. It's also built to support the OpenMicroBlogging protocol, meaning that (at least in theory) it can attack scalability issues by federating together multiple autonomous servers.

The underpinnings of Laconica include PHP, PEAR, and XMPP. You can download a tarball of the source, or check it out directly if you're using Darcs (there's also an unofficial mirror on Google Code, giving you Subversion access for a read-only copy).

Despite that encouraging start, though, Laconica so far lacks several pieces that would make it a credible candidate for a Twitter replacement. To my way of thinking, the biggest hole so far is the lack of any API; a large part of Twitter's success is based on offering API-based access to hundreds of clients and mashups. Also missing are SMS integration, hastags, and a variety of other features.

Of course, the biggest distinction between Twitter and is that Twitter has the user base. While this advantage may not be insurmountable, it's going to take more than open-source goodness and federation to dethrone Twitter as the de facto microblogging standard.