[Sagee read the Wired article on The Need for an Open Source Twitter, and demanded I sit down and write my views on the subject. I didn't really want to, but here goes anyway...]
When a service becomes successful, additional players will surely join the foray and try to gain their own piece of the action. And while Twitter, the most popular micro-blogging service on the Internet, has yet to find a real business model, the “sharks” are already out there seeking for blood and market share.
This, of course, includes head shark and arch enemy Facebook, with their old-new focus on “public” status updates and their recent FriendFeed acquisition, but it also includes old-new open source-based micro-blogging platforms.
Eliot Van Buskirk sums it up nicely in that article Sagee was reading on the need for an “open source Twitter“:
The OpenMicroBlogging standard already exists – it’s just that Twitter’s not playing along, possibly because it could lose market share if the open standard succeeds before it manages to monetize its service.
To make things even more complicated, Twitter just “enjoyed” a denial of service attack which blocked its service for a few hours. The sharks, of course, claim that an open standard platform, operated by multiple players, will ensure the service won’t be interrupted like that in the future.
All I can say regarding all that is: if you’re in second place, and far behind the leader, then “let’s go open” is a great strategy. Preach for an open standard, have an open source offering, build your business around others who may contribute to the service for you and try to win market share.
After all, this is essentially what everyone are doing with the whole Linux vs. Microsoft battle in the PC OS market. This is what Google is doing with Android, fighting off against Symbian, Microsoft and Apple in the mobile OC market. And although it may work pretty well for some of the time, usually it doesn’t.
And that’s because users don’t care about technology. They don’t care if the source is open or not, if it’s standardized or not, if it’s running on an open platform. All they care about – the fools! – is the service.
And today, the winning service is Twitter. And they’re winning by a great length. No other micro blogging service gets even close to Twitter in size or attention.
Eliot quotes Bill Cava, Ektron’s CEO, in his Wired article, saying:
The total failure of Twitter during the DDoS attacks highlights the fact that, with Twitter, we’re relying on a single service for mass communication of this type. Most everyone understands it’s ridiculous to expect one service to provide email support to the world. The same is true for micro messaging. The reality is, it can’t and won’t continue this way for too much longer.
For some unknown reason, Mr. Cava decided to leave out search – the most basic building block of the world wide web, which is based almost solely on a single service from a single company: Google.
Let’s face it – companies don’t choose to become open without clear benefit to them. And when they do, they decide carefully on the aspects they choose to open up. As Andreas Constantinou termed this very nicely on VisionMobile: Open is the New Closed.
A twitter open source initiative? Great. Just don’t think Twitter will join in, unless it benefits Twitter. Not the Internet, not the general public, but Twitter itself.