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Why Identi.ca is important

Over the last 24 hours, hordes of Twitter-refugees have been signing up with the microblogging service Identi.ca. Fed up with the restricted and unpredictable service from Twitter, over the last week or two people have been jumping this way and that: Pownce, Plurk, FriendFeed, and now Identi.ca. Here's my Identi.ca stream.

Let's get something straight up-front. Identi.ca's in its early stages. At version 0.4.1 it's not yet added all the features that Twitter has now broken.

A lot of people are jumping on Identi.ca and going away again, muttering "it's not got X, I'm off back to Twitter." True, but it's not as a Twitter-replacement today that Identi.ca is important.

Here's why I think Identi.ca counts for more than just being a Twitter clone.

It's open source

Anybody can help fix it. Anybody can set up their own Laconica (the name of the underlying software.) I've seen a clutch of posts from developers all offering their advice on fixing Twitter. With Identi.ca they can just get on and help.

It's open data

When you sign up for Identi.ca you agree to license your contributions to it under the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution license. You agree to let others share and remix your output, in return for giving attribution.

The open data ethos is baked into the codebase already. All output is available in RSS, and you can take your friends with you thanks to the FOAF exports available.

Twitter has millions of VC funding. Those folks will want a return. What does Twitter have to make money from? You and your content. Identi.ca gives you control in that situation.

It federates

Federation is one of the most enigmatic and exciting things about Identi.ca. I can set up my own server running the Laconica software, and still subscribe to people with accounts on Identi.ca's server.

This is how the XMPP instant messaging protocol works, and it's no surprise to find that XMPP is fundamental to Identi.ca's operation. Identi.ca is to Twitter as XMPP is to AIM. This may finally be the way XMPP breaks out into popular use for developers.

You've nothing to lose

Because of the commitment to open data, you've nothing to lose by giving Identi.ca a little spin. So, head over and make your own account. I added my RSS output to my Friendfeed page, along with my other output. Chris Blizzard has already added Identi.ca into whoisi. The little ripples you make in Identi.ca today can still waft out into your personal publishing pool.

And please, don't waste time complaining about "it hasn't got X". In 12 hours I've already seen Evan Prodromou, its developer, add features and fix bugs. He's got an open bug tracker, and listens to feedback.

Right now Evan seems to have his hands full dealing with the thousands of new arrivals, and to his credit, Identi.ca's still working fine.

Follow me here: identi.ca/edd

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