A lot of my colleagues at Stoas Learning including myself are having a lot of fun using the microblogging service Twitter. It has changed the social interaction between some of the team members and we have gotten to know each other better through a very simple service delivering 140 character messages at a time.
I like the service a lot but have been worried about one thing: the fact that all this information is only on Twitter’s server. This point is extra poignant whenever Twitter is down (which happens quite often).
Imagine a world in which people with a Hotmail email address could only email somebody if they also had a Hotmail address. There would be no way for somebody who is registered at Gmail to email somebody at Yahoo. Luckily this is not the case: email is collection of open protocols which can be implemented by anybody. Unfortunately we cannot say the same about instant messaging. I personally have a MSN account, a Skype account and a Yahoo account and there is no way for me to talk to a Skype user with my MSN account.
So what about microblogging? Will we go towards a future which is similar to instant messaging with multiple microblogging services which are not connected to each other? Will Twitter be so dominant that there will be no alternative (creating a monopoly with all its disadvantages)? Or will we move towards a future where microblogging is like email: you can choose the provider you want and connect to people using other providers?
I prefer the last option and feel that I should be principled about it. That is why I will stop using Twitter, temporarily abandoning the people I follow and the people that follow me and switch over to Identi.ca, currently the largest Laconica installation. Here is how Identi.ca explains in what way it is different from services like Twitter:
Identi.ca is an Open Network Service. Our main goal is to provide a fair and transparent service that preserves users’ autonomy. In particular, all the software used for Identi.ca is Free Software, and all the data is available under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license, making it Open Data.
The software also implements the OpenMicroBlogging protocol, meaning that you can have friends on other microblogging services that can receive your notices.
The goal here is autonomy — you deserve the right to manage your own on-line presence. If you don’t like how Identi.ca works, you can take your data and the source code and set up your own server (or move your account to another one).
I will spend the next couple of weeks trying to convince everybody around me to make the switch and maybe even get Stoas to start its own Laconica server.
If you are interested in hearing more about Identi.ca and Laconica I can recommend episode 37 of Floss Weekly where Evan Prodromou, the creator of both is interviewed and explains how Laconica works and what the plans for the future are.