Laconica and identi.ca – the open source alternatives to Twitter

(Image by camera obscuraCC-by-nc)

I’m a big believer in open source philosophies, free software and decentralised systems, so I want to do my bit to give a plug for Laconica – a microblogging system that offers an open source, distributed alternative to Twitter.

So, what is Laconica?

According to the article, Twitter for the enterprise:

Laconica is an open source microblogging platform—a network service software that allows participants to post short messages on a Web page, which then can be read by peers and other interested parties. The messages can also be sent out to instant messaging clients, to cell-phones as a short message service (SMS)-based dispatch, and to other conduits.

Laconica is different from Twitter for several reasons. One is that it is available as a stand-alone software platform available without cost under an open source license.

So anyone can setup a Laconica server. There is a growing list of Laconica servers here – http://laconi.ca/Main/ListOfServers. Currently the most popular service is identi.ca. My account there is http://identi.ca/seanfitz.

Twitter is often down due to scaling problems, and they have reduced the number of features to reduce the load. For example, they removed the useful “With Others” tab that allowed you to view someone else’s conversation with their friends. With anyone being able set up their own Laconica server many of these load-related problems should be avoided.

Laconica also can offer federated messaging: Two different installations of Laconica can be linked so that a message on one service can be relayed to users of the other service.

It’s this federated messaging that really excites me. It means I can follow someone on any Laconica service, not just the one I’m registered with. This is pretty cool. Laconica is a truly distributed microblogging service.

Laconica also supports OpenID, the single log-on identity service, which is another plus.

See a full list of current and upcoming features here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laconica

Content on Laconica is Creative Commons licensed

This is the only thing about Laconica I don’t feel 100% comfortable about – when you sign up for identi.ca you agree to license your contributions under the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution license.

Don’t get me wrong, I support the idea of producing work under Creative Commons licenses, it’s just that I would rather have choice over which license I apply to my content, like I do at flickr.

Besides, even though my microblogging may not produce any great works of art, I prefer to put a by-nc-sa license on my content because I don’t want to see it being restricted for commercial use and potentially sold back to me.

Private microblogging networks

Being able to host your own Laconica server means that you can create your own private microblogging network. As the Twitter for the enterprise article points out, this could have some important uses in business:

Deploying Laconica within an enterprise can help employees from different parts of the organization share information, Prodromou said. The software can partition off different user groups for collaboration, or have users communicate with the world—or organization—at large. Organizations can also set up conduits to personnel at other organizations running their own microblogging services.

Laconica in an educational setting

Being able to set up your own server also means it may have some uses in an educational setting. As a general rule I support web services being on the open web, but there are some instances in educational settings where private services are appropriate, such as with younger students, or vulnerable students, or other areas where Duty of Care is an issue. I’m a realist, so I also accept that sometimes private networks can provide a stepping stone for institutions that are just too nervous to let their students use tools on the open web.

A Laconica network could be a great way to provide a peer learning support network. As SMS support is improved (it only works with some networks at the moment) a Laconica network could also potentially be used to broadcast information to students.

Supporting the distributed microbloggerverse

I hope more people jump on board with Laconica and identi.ca and help create a distributed microbloggerverse. As an open source project the more people who get involved the faster it will improve.

If nothing else, even if Laconica doesn’t replace Twitter, or become anywhere as big as Twitter, it should at least keep them their toes knowing that they have an open source competitor.

So I think it’s worth checking out at least. And besides, if this really is Lawrence Lessig on identi.ca (thanks gnuchris), then all the really cool people will be there. 🙂

By the way – if you use FriendFeed it’s now possible to follow identi.ca updates over there.

6 responses to “Laconica and identi.ca – the open source alternatives to Twitter

  1. Nice post Sean, they are adding a feature that will allow you to chose which license you want.

    NC license just restricts other people from using your work commercially. You publish your own work here on your blog, if you removed the NC from the license how could it be restricted for commercial use and potentially sold back to you.

    As you know from experience with VET Sector, its very easy to restrict access to many NC resources on the web.

    I don’t think what hes talking about has much to do with copyright and criticizing these licenses just confuses people and makes a lot of their work incompatible with some of the best collections of resources on the web, it also mean every time I want to distribute a hardcopy(provide access) of downes work that I’m the one who has to pay. The issue is more about policy, TOS etc.

  2. Chris: Good to hear about the new license options… it seemed like the obvious thing to do, and probably quite trivial. Choice is always good.

    My complaint was with the current BY default, which doesn’t protect you from work being used commercially. I think we are agreeing. And if laconica lets me nominate a by-nc-sa license I’m happy.

    I disagree about critiquing Creative Commons licenses. Just because we agree with the basic principle of them doesn’t mean we shouldn’t criticise them. The lack of consensus on how they should be interpreted proves they aren’t beyond discussion. And as for causing confusion, I find them confusing already, and I imagine others do too.

  3. I’m not saying we shouldn’t criticize Creative Commons licenses.

    I’m just wondering why you link to that article, his reasons for using NC seem different to yours. Your reason seems much more sensible and honest.

    Most of that blog post is just trolling wikieducator.

    If people use agreements to override copyright then what difference does it make if its NC?

  4. Chris: I pointed to Stephen’s post because I wanted to acknowledge that this discussion had been going on before and I thought he had done a reasonable job of explaining concerns I hold about not using SA or NC on free content.

    The last thing I want to do is get caught in the middle of an argument between you, Stephen and WikiEducator! 🙂

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  6. hello,
    I am setting laconica up and running. DO you have any idea of how the messages are sent out to IMs, cell phones etc are working. I tried with it and I could not get the message broadcast with IM working.
    Please let me know if you have any inputs.