Open Twitter


Rusty Gate

If you think about it Twitter is a bit of a walled garden, a closed system as Sean Carmody has pointed out.  You have to be on Twitter to use Twitter; a little like Facebook or AOL.  Maybe what we need to step beyond Twitter into an open message distribution service, this would help with the load issue if nothing else.

Stepping beyond the walled garden will allow services like Twitter to jump the shark and avoid the problems AOL had. They were popular with the early adopters to start with, then the mob got bored and moved on, the shininess and gloss just waned away.

So are there any other alternatives we can glean a model off:

The Clones

So with Twitter we get the clones (Pownce, Jaiku and Kwippy ), with a few add on features, do they really give us anything new?  Maybe not.  Okay Pownce is a little more, but it’s still a little like Twitter in outlook.  Still they are all closed communities.  You can’t message from one into the other.

Then we have, based on the Laconica system.  Still this is very Twitter based clone service.  You can have your own server true, but it’s still closed. We don’t see messages in the other services. Edit 2 Sept – I have since been informed you can if you set up your own service.   Okay so that’s a start.

All these services have made some degree of  traction but really nothing major, people have tended to check them out, maybe add them to their distribution services like But basically people just move on, leaving nothing but an echo.


People are saying FriendFeed is the next big thing.  Well maybe not, on a personal level I’m beginning to find FriendFeed a pain to use.   There is just too much noise from some A-listers that I’m not subscribed too that seem to sneak in from one friend or the other.  It’s to the point that the normal conversation and feeds from my real network are just being swamped.  This makes the service a little pointless, I just don’t have the time to trawl through the A-list chaff.  So realistically this model isn’t really cutting it, even if it is a little open, in a way.


Previously I have questioned if Plurk had what it takes to continue.  Two months later and the service has matured.  It has been busy building a small community. It’s not microblogging at all, more like a thread based IRC than anything.   However again it’s a closed community.  You can’t continue a conversation from Plurk on anything but Plurk.

The Solution

What is really needed is an open API driven Open Messaging service, a true commenting open service that will allow you to have a conversation from one service to another.  For example you can send a comment to Twitter, converse with someone in Plurk, read other comments from Friendfeed all from whatever one you choose.

Realistically that’s going to take a community effort the likes of OpenID or OAuth, and even then you would have to convince the companies concerned that it was in their interest to adopt this type of messaging system. Still it’s a nice idea.

Edit 2 Sept –  There is a protocol in development – OpenMicroBlogger.  I think it needs to get out there and be promoted a bit.

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  1. You make an interesting point about FriendFeed, I happen to enjoy following the A-listers so it’s fun for me to use.

    “What is really needed is an open API driven Open Messaging service, a true commenting open service that will allow you to have a conversation from one service to another”

    It’s called the protocol, and it’s currently driving a network of maybe 100 servers or so. The biggies are and — you can choose or software for your own service.

    “You can have your own server true, but it’s still closed”.

    Huh? Wha?

    “We don’t see messages in the other services.”

    Eh? Wazat?

  2. @Brian. Thanks for stopping by.

    The problem I have found is that if you use an OpenID to login with a server and try and connect to non public feed you are pretty much out of luck. Let alone then plug the into your social network of distributors, which is really just a poor OpenID implementation of others. But it doesn’t help with the bigger picture does it.

    If has been assumed that the microblogging is for the public feeds only. Which in many cases I know of is not the case.

    You see people are not microblogging really, they are having asynchronous conversations.

  3. @Gary I like your blog, these comment bubbles are stylin’

    You might want to check the definition of “Microblogging” in Sean Carmody’s post a few minutes ago.

    “a fast-flowing form of “public” communication”

    And re:

    “[open microbloggers] are not microblogging really, they are having asynchronous conversations”

    Feeds/polling is not how open microblogging works. Instead, each service “broadcasts” its “tweets” in real-time to subscribers no matter what server they are using.

    — Brian

  4. @Brian… humm that was my followup post.. what really is microblogging.. Sean seems to have come to the some conclusion I have. That the term is a technically a little askew. You would expect micro-“blogging” to be a shorter from of blogging. In fact its not what is really happening. It’s often broadcast requests or statements leading to conversation. The Conversation is often more social than a blog ever is.

  5. Excellent post Gary, and thanks for the link! One thing I would take issue with is when you say is no more open than twitter or facebook. It is in fact far more open as it implements the OpenMicroblogging protocol, which allows different services to cross-subscribe. For example, I am seancarmody on and from there I have subscribed to people on both OpenMicroblogger and TWiT Army as they both implement the OpenMicroblogging protocol. TWiT Army uses the same software as (laconica), but OpenMicroblogger uses a different platform, but still implements the same protocol.

    Now, if only twitter, Facebook and the rest were to implement the standard and we’d really open things up!

    As for the question of public/private, microblogs are certainly primarily private at the moment, but they are also rapidly evolving. Implementing various forms of privacy are actually an important part of what’s ahead for the standard as this will allow greater flexibility in the use of microblogs. For example, corporations could use them internally, ensure their staff communications were (mostly) contained within the company, while still allowing staff to subscribe to external public feeds and even making some internal communications publicly available (e.g. from the marketing/investor relations area).

    It’s a rapidly moving landscape at the moment, and very exciting!

  6. Gary,

    I too believe that we need to have a better/free flow of conversations across the services and the walled garden approach needs to change. Also we need ways to manage our conversations across various services better.

    We at kwippy are addressing the problem in our own way by

    1) Providing a platform for people to have conversations over social objects(status messages) from other networks say Gtalk,Yahoo IM and Facebook.

    2) Providing RSS/Atom feeds for conversations that can be used and integrated with comments of a similar conversation you had elsewhere.

    and more.

    Cheers !!

  7. “We don’t see messages in the other services.”

    Sorry Gary – that is wrong. If you set up a server of your own, you can subscribe and see messages. If someone else decided to build another system using the openmicroblogging protocol, you too would be able to subscribe and see and messages.

    Just to be clear: There is two parts to this – a protocol for services to talk, and the services themselves. As mentioned openmicroblogger is a protocol that does exactly what is required – as long as two different services speak openmicroblogger, they can communicate. is a hosted service that talks openmicroblogger, and is the open source version (, as you know is built on It’s already based on OAuth (the fact it uses OpenID has nothing to do with the protocol itself – you can build a openmicroblogging system without OpenID).

    So what we actually need to make this stuff move forward is to get twitter/plurk/pownce etc etc talking openmicroblogger. Not THAT is the blocker 🙂

  8. @Myles I know its based on OAuth, granted. I have correct the above. I was working of personal experiences on a private feed with the hosted service. So you would expect it not to play ball that easily I guess..

    Maybe the OpenMicroBlogger community needs to do a little more promotion beside the Twit Army (sorry Sean and Brian not a Leo fan). A podcast Fanclub is not really the rest of the industry.

  9. @Gary it’s still early days. itself was only launched two months ago.

    I agree that TWiT Army is not for everyone, but in a sense that is the point. The OpenMicroblogging approach allows the creation of smaller, more focused communities than such as this one, while still allowing users to connect outside that community. There are other laconica servers springing up everywhere. While many of these are really just test installations, I am sure that the idea will continue to spread and many special interest groups will find the model compelling.

    Of course, the larger community approach has its attractions too and itself aims to offer this, so it is far more of a twitter competitor than the smaller servers like TWiT Army. Twitter has a couple of years head-start on, so it’s no surprise that the community is still more vibrant there. Personally, I will continue to use twitter myself for that reason, and I see as a fall-back in the event that pressures from twitter’s VC backers result in the plug being pulled.

  10. @Sean – The real power of this would be to setup a laconica server for a conference and use it as a constant back channel for sessions and socialising etc, this I fell would help bind people beyond the likes of twitter etc. Now that is real food for thought.

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