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June 16, 2008

Can Twitter Be Saved?

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If there's anything Twitter can be counted on for, lately it's been the service's instability. The situation got so bad that avid twitterers have now gotten used to loading up istwitterdown.com in one of their browser tabs while debating whether FriendFeed was going to replace Twitter. As Twitter started the long, hard process of a rebuild, the team learned how to quickly adjust the load by disabling services when needed. Staying up through the WWDC keynote was a triumph that they thought was reason enough for celebration. Don't be fooled though - they may have mastered how to shed load fast in order to stay afloat, but Twitter still has a long road ahead of them. Only now, they might have some help.

Saving Twitter

Last week, VentureBeat reported that Twitter decided to hire Pivotal Labs, a company they described as a "quiet but impressive group of big-gun, for-hire developers." Pivotal Labs have already worked with other clients like salesforce, lumosity, DiscoveryMining, Bringo, and many others.

Today marks the first day that Pivotal is on the job, and the job is rebuilding Twitter. Originally designed as a CMS (or blogging) system instead of a messaging system, Twitter doesn't just need to be tweaked - it has to be entirely rebuilt. That's a big job, but given enough time, there's no doubt that the Pivotal Labs team can help to make that happen.

Too Little, Too Late?

The only question now is whether or not it's too late. The early adopter crowd has already found themselves obsessed with the latest shiny new object, FriendFeed. While no replacement for Twitter - that's really an apples/oranges comparison - FriendFeed enables conversations among its users, and those threads are easier to follow than the conversations taking place on Twitter.

Others are looking into Plurk, the latest take on 140-character micro-blogging, this one with timelines, the ability to sharing multimedia, and the use of cliques (groups of users).

However, the real threat lies in what's going on with Jaiku. Rumor has it that this Google acquisition, hasn't been abandoned like everyone currently believes. On the latest episode of TWiT, Steve Gillmor said that he talked to Jaiku founder, Jyri Engeström, who is apparently very busy moving Jaiku to the Google app engine...and embedding Jaiku presence throughout everything in the Google universe.

The Jaiku blog even hints and their big plans, noting "Also, contrary to some voices out there, we DO have plans for future development..." and when discussing the Google App Engine move "The Google App Engine enables applications to leverage powerful Google technologies and scale up to millions of users without infrastructure headaches."

Now, why would they be worrying about millions of Jaiku users if the service was being abandoned?

It seems like Jaiku is getting ready for its big reveal, and, when it does, will Twitter still have a shot? Will the Twitter community stick with Twitter even when Jaiku shows up in everything Google? Will people see Jaiku's feature set that includes things like threaded conversations and make a switch? Would you?

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