Is Micro-Blogging Here To Stay?

By March 20, 2008

If the recent acquisition of Twitter-challenger Jaiku any clue, the answer is probably yes.   About a year ago, San Francisco-based Twitter started registering on the Web 2.0 radar in a big way after it became hot news at South by

Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) all the way in Austin, Texas. This year, Twitter returned to the show where many attendees who had since then become Twitterers used the service to stay in touch, find parties and vent against Sarah Lacy. Apparently, Twitter is here to stay and several competitors are joining the competition.   I will let a self-proclaimed Twitter addict describe what it is all about. Laurent Pantanacce’s devotion to the service led him to create a Twitter directory which, on a recent day, listed 941,943 twitterers. A definite Twitter member body count is hard to come by.   “For me, Twitter is a communication tool on the border between blogs and instant messaging. It makes it possible to publish short notes, which is why we talk about micro-blogging. In addition, you can manage your circle of friends within Twitter, adding a social dimension to a simple communication tool. Because the published notes are short and broadcast to a circle of friends who tend to respond, it makes the tool akin to collective instant messaging,” Pantanacce explained on a French blog.   “Real life happens between blog posts and emails,” seriously states a video titled Twitter in Plain English on the company blog (or there on YouTube). The bite-sized messages (they must be under 140 characters) that a Twitter member receives from her friends help her stay connected, and even learn things she never knew about them. These messages are all answers to the simple question “What are you doing?” and can be sent on the Internet or from a cell phone.   Twitter could also be described as a hipper version of Facebook for the in crowd. It has some of the same basic elements: creating an online circle of friends, updating them about your whereabouts and letting third-party developers create new applications. But Twitter has a more manic feel to it because of the constant updates. Isn’t turning our friends into paparazzi following our every move a bit too much? Twitter aficionados would disagree, of course, and they would say that Twitter is also a great tool for professional networking and for technology watch. Like Facebook, Twitter is said to have spurred the development of hundreds of related applications including TwitterFeed which merges any RSS Feed into Twitter or an interface to Outlook.   A slew of Twitter-like sites   Twitter might retain its lead, but several competitors have appeared. The two main ones are Jaiku and Pownce. Finland-based Jaiku is considered to be better designed and to have better mobile integration. Yet it has never really taken off. Will its recent acquisition by Google bring new life to the “activity stream and presence sharing service” as its two founders describe Jaiku? Those interested in joining the beta program might learn the answer more quickly.   And then there is Pownce, a newcomer with a famous godfather in the person of Digg founder Kevin Rose. On Pownce, you can send text, but also links and files. Here again, users who have compared the different services find Pownce to be technically and aesthetically interesting. The problem is that, if your friends are on Twitter, that’s where you want to be too. But for those who want it both ways, TwitKu makes it possible to follow and post to both Twitter and Jaiku on one interface. “Refuse to choose” proclaims TwitKu. The micro-blogging version of nirvana.   By Isabelle Boucq   FEEDBACK For comments on this article, email us at

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