By Jesse Stay of Stay N' Alive (Identi.ca/FriendFeed)
Identi.ca, the open source and Federated microblogging platform, could very well put Twitter out of business as other businesses begin realizing how they can adopt it. I think the answer could very well be in the "group Twitter" concept that everyone keeps talking about and the fact that Laconi.ca, the code that powers Identi.ca, makes this very easy for anyone to do.
I realized this today when Jay Ridgeway was able to show how to set up a simple Federated instance of Laconi.ca in just 7 steps. The idea behind "Federation" is that I can sign up for Identi.ca, or any other Laconi.ca-based platform and be able to follow anyone on any of the other Laconi.ca-based platforms all on my prefered service of choice. Today I began imagining how others could begin utilizing this technology - essentially it is a technology built to allow other similar systems built on the same technology to talk with each other.
Sound familiar? Laconi.ca is building an actual Protocol underneath it all where other types of software can also communicate with Laconi.ca. This would put it almost in the same realm as Sendmail, which communicates with other mail server software via the SMTP protocol, or even Apache, which communicate with other web servers via the HTTP protocol, or even Bind, which communicates with other DNS servers via the DNS protocol. I could go on and on - Evan Prodromou, the founder of Identi.ca, is not just building another microblogging service. He's developing a standard, along with software that adopts that standard so that you, too can build software that communicates with that standard! This is profound, and in my opinion we haven't seen such innovation and selfless development of new communication techniques since the invention of the web itself. Identi.ca is in many ways building an entirely new, open layer of the internet.
Now, back to the groups concept. Well, actually, it's more of a small community concept I'm refering to - your business can actually build communities off of this protocol, starting with the software that Identi.ca has provided. Identi.ca and Twitter are both very broad communities. People of all types and tastes are on those services. Those services are good for that - it's a great way to build relationships, meet new people, and find information. However, there is no way currently for me to associate only with those of like tastes and culture. For instance, if I am into college football and you are not, you aren't going to be interested in the details of the games I'm watching. You may be interested though to know I have an interest in college football. So both types of communities have their place.
Now, what if ESPN were to launch a version of Laconi.ca just for sports lovers? It would just take a simple install of Laconi.ca and a little cobranding of their logo, look, and feel and soon an entire community of sports lovers would be sharing their love for sports, communicating back and forth, and showing their other sports-loving friends what they're doing in their sports-loving life. At the same time, they could still follow all of those same friends they follow over on Identi.ca and even other interest communities, all while still on the ESPN sports community, remaining on the ESPN site. Imagine if this same technique was launched for Moms, Dads, religions, or even just your local city or town?
Laconi.ca is not a service, but rather a technology, and the founder and developer, Evan, of Identi.ca I think recognizes that. We're seeing this as so many other microblogging services have come up recently, some others even open source. Identi.ca will evolve as it builds around this basic technology of microblogging and finds new ways to use it. What's great is that they're sharing the basic technology so that others can do the same and build their own creative services around the technology! (Evan was quoted as saying one of his monetization strategies is consulting on the technology he's written, so there's no doubt he expects to see others embrace it, as it's to his benefit) Add to that the shared API built around the service and the fact that any software written for Identi.ca will work on almost any other Laconi.ca platform with just the change of a host name and you can quickly see the power of Identi.ca and the software that powers it.
Twitter seems to be completely ignoring this as they shut the doors on developers, try to develop entirely in-house, and build an entirely proprietary system. Businesses will quickly realize this, build software on the Laconi.ca platform, and as the customers and communities that follow those communities flock to their platforms, they will also naturally join other supported services such as identi.ca. Users will soon have no reason to be on Twitter any more if nothing is done. I always said developers would begin the demise of Twitter, and Laconi.ca's making it awfully easy for that to happen. Unless Twitter adopts and opens up in a major way, they will fail.
In case this convinces you to switch, you can find me on identi.ca at http://identi.ca/jessestay. Join Louis at http://identi.ca/louisgray. Looking for tips on how to switch? Check out http://ohidentica.com/.