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A distributed alternative to Twitter must respect what already exists

Lots of talk over the last few days among Twittervangelists about the need for some kind of open source and fully distributed version of Twitter to protect against the outages that continue to plague the service.
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Written by Steve O'Hear on

Lots of talk over the last few days among Twittervangelists about the need for some kind of open source and fully distributed version of Twitter to protect against the outages that continue to plague the service.

"We're all creating artifacts and connections that are even more fragile than the early web, because, unlike the web, it's 100 percent centralized. We all trust the owners of Twitter, but they're human, even with the best intent, we all are taking a risk that the network could disappear at any time", writes Dave Winer. "This is just plain unacceptable."

One solution would be to create a de-centralized alternative (or alternatives) to Twitter that could act as a kind of cache or mirror in which all third-party clients (and possibly, but unlikely, Twitter.com itself) could write to, and which in turn would also parse messages through to the official Twitter servers too. This is all, theoretically, made possible because of Twitter's simple and widely supported API, the result of which is that lots of Twitter interactivity happens via third-party clients not through the site itself.

Alternatively, users could abandon Twitter altogether in favor of a completely independent and loosely joined service built on an open standard, not dissimilar to the way the open standard IM platform Jabber works.

Of the two solutions I greatly favor the former, simply because it would protect the Twitter brand, and keep the newly built in de-centralization transparent to users. Any attempt to undermine Twitter's brand recognition, which has resulted in network effects that benefit all of us (almost everybody who microblogs uses Twitter), is a sad and unfair way to repay Twitter for popularizing the microblogging medium and taking an industry lead in its adoption of public APIs.

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