Namespaces, Twitter, Identi.ca, and Federation


A few days ago I wrote about federating with Identi.ca. Yesterday I had a great chat with Craig Burton about that whole idea. He's not buying. I asked him to respond on his blog so we could move the discussion online.

My argument was essentially that moving Twitter-like functionality onto a distributed platform was a good thing and likely to make more people comfortable with the idea of building out additional functionality in the micro-blogging space (what people have started to call the space that Twitter is in). The fly in the ointment, from my perspective, is the additional friction engendered by the need to subscribe to people on federating systems. Much harder than clicking "follow" on the Twitter page.

Craig's argument is that the advantages of a single namespace are so huge that the friction I mention is a deal-killer. He goes on:

With all of the downsides of Twitter, I still love it. Why? Because it has the big names already in it! Don't you get that?

I chortle at my cohorts--- @stevegillmor and @jessestay (twitter names) that are bad mouthing twitter and claiming that somehow other systems are better from some tech reason or another. The big names are already in Twitter. Ample reason to stay and stick out the growing pains.

From Federated Twitter Look alikes---Ho Hum
Referenced Thu Aug 14 2008 13:07:08 GMT-0600 (MDT)

Craig's got a point that goes beyond what I was considering. The namespace issue and the friction of subscription collide in unpleasant ways. But as I thought about it, I realized that with Laconi.ca based systems, URLs are the namespace. Laconi.ca, and hence Identi.ca, don't create a private namespace. That's why federation works.

So, the friction that subscription creates might the death of these federated systems. Or it might be it's salvation. Things like the gateway that WebDevStudios' put up to link Twitter and Identi.ca might make the whole discussion moot. Or, it might be something else entirely like the fact that Identi.ca doesn't do SMS.

I'm going to be talking to http://evan.prodromou.name/, the man behind Identi.ca and Laconi.ca on Monday as part of my Technometria podcast. I'm really looking forward to it--this whole thing is really heating up.