Opening Up, and Breaking Away from the Twittering Crowd
When I began using Twitter earlier last year, I'm not sure that I was aware of its open source competitor, Identi.ca, or its relationship to Laconica.
While Twitter has had its share of knocks, from outtages to phishing attacks, I've not been personally affected. Microblogging has been more of a diversion than a tool (though this isn't always the case), Twitter is ubiquitous, and I simply used it.
I'm not sure what made me take Identi.ca for a test drive, or look further at what Laconica can offer open blogging standards and social networks as a whole. The open nature and standards have the needle spiking wildly on my "geek-meter," and a lot of that spiking can be directly attributed to the way these services benefit everyone -- whether they be a tech enthusiast, or slightly less tech averse than a Luddite.
Last July, Mike wrote a bit on Laconica, saying that while there was a lot to like about Laconica, it hadn't gotten all the pieces in place to make it a real threat to Twitter.
Several of the missing pieces Mike mentioned have since been implemented in Laconica. There are both native and Twitter Compatible APIs available, a number of desktop, mobile and web applications for various platforms that update Identi.ca and other Laconica installations, and updating via SMS is now available. Laconica does indeed have more ground to cover, but there's been measurable progress in a relatively short time span.
What's available now is impressive, of course. Registering with identi.ca was straightforward (OpenID is supported) and I could opt to follow any Identi.ca users that I already follow on Twitter. I opted for my Identi.ca updates to appear in my Twitter timeline.
There is, understandably, a significant open source community on Identi.ca, and as Identi.ca doesn't generate the "ambient noise" that Twitter does, it's significantly easier to make connections and discover people with similar interests. Of course, the open source community is a small part of a much larger world, and I mentioned earlier that Laconica's strength doesn't cater to any one group.
Scalability through the OpenMicroBlogging protocol, the transparency and security of open source, and (perhaps most important) user autonomy are what ultimately sets Laconica apart. For many, these are still somewhat abstract concepts. Identi.ca states in its FAQ that users are welcome to take their data (and the source code) and start fresh should an issue arise with the Identi.ca service. The average user won't care to set up his own server, but losing his content, contacts, and connections when a service goes under (or acts questionably) should be -- and will likely increasingly become -- a concern.
This is Laconica's strength. The information and content you create remains yours, and accessible on your terms.