Note: Contrary to the title’s implication, this is not an anti-microblogging post. Originally a skeptic, I’m converted to the value of microblogging.
Addendum: Please be sure to read some of the very thoughtful comments made by Bob Jonkman, Hein-Pieter Van Braam, Craig, and Odin Omdal Hørthe. They managed to sway my opinion about Identi.ca.
I knew right after saying it that would rub a few people the wrong way. I don’t really have anything against Identi.ca. The glib tone of that comment is rooted in something I have asserted many times in my advocacy of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). I’ll state it again, this time in the context of web applications and services.
Let’s first lay out a couple definitions:
- Identi.ca is a microblogging service that is very similar to Twitter
- Laconica is the FOSS offering that powers Identi.ca
Onward we go…
Is Laconica Cloneware?
Long, long ago, I posted some thoughts on “cloneware”: free software that simply knocks off the functionality of a proprietary offering mainly for the sake of replicating the proprietary offering. Typically, what results is a cheaper, crappier version of the original. There are notable exceptions, and I hardly mean to suggest that its wrong to replicate just for the sake of doing it. But if the only goal is to replicate–meaning there is no other driving reason such as new innovation–then I don’t expect a very inspiring offering. (SourceForge is littered with many such dead-end projects.)
So is Laconica cloneware? No, I don’t think it is. Laconica is useful. For example, with Laconica organizations can freely implement their own microblogging hosts for whatever need they may have, such as hosting a confidential microblog. Laconica also demonstrates innovation. As an example, it allows you to federate your Laconica host with other Laconica hosts. So, if Laconica perhaps started off as mere cloneware, it then demonstrates that cloneware can beget innovation.
So, my “What’s the point?” comment was not at all aimed at Laconica. It was about Identi.ca. Why would I use Identi.ca?
Religiosity & FOSS: Why I Use Twitter instead of Identi.ca
I disagree with those who feel that we should all use FOSS for the principle of it. That sentiment is arrogant B.S. promoted by those who spend too much time enagaged in technological omphaloskepsis. Sure, you can make a case for how we all need to support OSS at every opportunity, but to me, it starts to sound a lot like religious dogma after a certain point.
I love innovations that provide me with a new and useful tool that just works. So while I advocate Free Software as a great delivery mechanism of new innovations, I have no issue with using a proprietary service that gets a job done. Twitter is a great example of such a service.
Twitter costs me nothing. Usually, it just works. For the price, I’m okay with when it doesn’t. It has an API that gives sufficient freedom for my data. Twitter also has a user base that dwarfs any other Microblogging service, which is very important. Much like Facebook, I can find almost every wired person in one place. The originators of Twitter were responsible for the advent of microblogging, and consequently they have a massive user base. I see nothing inherently evil with Twitter. In my opinion, they earned their success, and I’m comfortable to be one of their millions of users.
So, when I asked “what’s the point?” about Identi.ca, I was being deliberately provocative because I don’t see any advantage to using Identi.ca. Identi.ca cannot lure me away from Twitter merely by virtue of its use of a FOSS offering instead of a proprietary system. As I see it, Identi.ca is simply a knock off of a well-established service. Unlike Laconica, I don’t see its purpose.