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