Identi.ca hopes so. The Montreal-based start-up is offering the micro-blogging functionality of Twitter under the Affero GPL license. The software also responds to something called the Open Microblogging specification -- the first to do so.
The software also supports the OpenID spec and offers a Creative Commons license for all content -- although you wonder why given what passes for micro-blog content. (I searched for images on micro-blogging -- this was at a Physics site. Wonders of the Web.)
In theory the new spec should allow users of sites like Twitter to twit other sites, but when you're the first to set a spec it's hard to call it a standard. In theory the AGPL gives users more freedom, and a greater level of obligation, than any other online license. But few projects use it and Google hates it.
So we're left with the standard questions:
- Will the Identi.ca software based on PEAR, PHP and XMPP, scale better than Twitter's Ruby-based system?
- Will it get a chance -- how many people really want to micro-blog?
Dave Rosenberg asks why he can't buy himself out of the Identi.ca AGPL but he has more money than I do.
My own view is that Twitter's initial success may be blinding us to the real purpose of micro-blogging, which was seen during the SXSW Zuckerberg interview.
Micro-blogging is best at conventions, meetings and other gatherings. It's shared IM, instant texting, with channels created on-the-fly. With better mobile Internet devices -- iPhones and their competitors -- any public meeting can have organized chatter and background noise. Conclusions can be reached before people leave the room.
There is a place for instant conventional wisdom. There is plenty of time for this niche to develop. So I don't think Identi.ca is too late to this market. In some ways it may be too early, because Dave is also making an important point.
Everyone needs a business model. Even if they use the Affero GPL license.