Where are the open-source twitter clients?

Summary:With each passing day Twitter gains more momentum, more users and more influence. For users of the micro-blogging service, the option of using a leading open-source client is one that is sorely lacking.

With each passing day Twitter gains more momentum, more users and more influence. But for users of the micro-blogging service, the option of using a leading open-source client is one that is sorely lacking.

(Credit: Twitter)

A glance at the list of the suggested clients on Twitter shows that the vast majority are proprietary applications. Spaz is the needle in the haystack and is available under a new BSD-like licence.

But why aren't there more?

The technical hurdles to creating a Twitter client are not insurmountable; in fact, the API is one of the service's attractions. Therefore technically, I see no reason why an open-source client could not work.

Is it possible that Twitter's web interface is enough? For a lot of people it might just be. A number of open-source luminaries do consistently post from the web interface. By contrast, there are also other open-source people who post from proprietary clients.

The simple truth is that as a user of TweetDeck and someone that has scoured the web for an open-source alternative, there is no FOSS alternative that even comes close to TweetDeck, Twirl, Twitterfon and their proprietary ilk.

It's also true that most of these clients are "free as in beer" and are ad-free. Which leaves idealism as the sole remaining prime motivator for an open-source client — and while TweetDeck et al remain free to use and without ads (how they monetise it is another matter) they will remain king of the hill.

On the other hand, perhaps it is not the need for an open-source client that is missing, but an open-source micro-blogging service to replace Twitter; enter identi.ca, which is available under the AGPL licence. identi.ca has a bridge which allows posts (or "dents") from identi.ca to also appear on Twitter. Essentially, identi.ca has solved two problems in one go, with the highly open-source community using the service as a testament to this.

If micro-blogging is indeed the next big thing, at least there is an open-source alternative for FOSS freaks to go to. Provided that people can raise their heads above the Twitter trench.

Here is a list of open-source Twitter clients, no doubt I've missed some, so if you know of any please post below in the talkback.

  • Spaz — built on AIR
  • Gwibber — GNOME-based client
  • identi.ca — open-source service with Twitter bridge
  • Mitter — cross-platform PyGTK client

Topics: Open Source, Social Enterprise

About

Chris started his journalistic adventure in 2006 as the Editor of Builder AU after originally joining CBS as a programmer. After a Canadian sojourn, he returned in 2011 as the Editor of TechRepublic Australia, and is now the Australian Editor of ZDNet.

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