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How to think about identi.ca

Monday, July 07, 2008 by Dave Winer.

First, about an hour ago, identi.ca got a major feature, that makes it about a billion percent more useful and a billion percent less shitty.  Permalink to this paragraph

There's now a Replies tab so you can see who has directly commented on something you've twitted (er identic'd). To see it, log in, click on the Home link in the menu at the top of the page, and you'll see it. Permalink to this paragraph

Now Twitter has had that for a long time, so what's the big deal. And there are still a bunch of features that identi.ca will need to bring it to parity, feature-wise, with Twitter. Permalink to this paragraph

Yet every step it takes is a victory for users and developers, even if they don't know it is.  Permalink to this paragraph

Perhaps an analogy will help. Permalink to this paragraph

Twitter is to identi.ca as an exclusive country club is to a public swimming pool. We might be denied access to Twitter's platform for whatever reason, stated or unstated. This isn't hypothetical, they actually put it in writing. However, they've said they'll recind it. But then they could rescind the rescinding. It's a lot like Apple's policy with developers for the iPhone which might go something like: "We can't let just anyone develop for this."  Permalink to this paragraph

identi.ca is different, like the Internet itself, no one gets to say whether or not you can develop for the platform. Sure one particluar instance of identi.ca might block your app, but they can't all block it. (Not entirely true, by the way -- just a lot less likely. Email, an open protocol, does effectively block some spammers from dumping mail through open relays. The real world sometimes forces across-the-board restrictions.) Permalink to this paragraph

To understand where we're at, remember that software is a process, you can't judge it by where it is today, you have start with that, and judge how it's evolving. Twitter is struggling with finding a happy scaling place and a business model that sustains it after venture capital. As a corporation, they have incentives that an open source project doesn't have. They're more likely to pay attention to users' needs than an open source project that's more likely to tell you to fix it yourself. Though the lack of a business model has made it less likely that the company views its users as customers. They've been polite, even playful, but the service has been pretty awful.  Permalink to this paragraph

I believe we need both. Single-party systems suck, I like (at a minimum) two parties. Everyone benefits from competition, users, developers, even the entities providing the service or product. Permalink to this paragraph


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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 53, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

"The protoblogger." - NY Times.

"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.

One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.

"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.

"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.

"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.

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