Google have decided to open source the Jaiku Engine and release it under the Apache license on Google Code. The actual Jaiku service won’t close, but neither is Google supporting it. Instead, the service will live on thanks to volunteers. Or, in the words of Vic Gundotra, VP of Engineering:
As we mentioned last April, we are in the process of porting Jaiku over to Google App Engine. After the migration is complete, we will release the new open source Jaiku Engine project on Google Code under the Apache License. While Google will no longer actively develop the Jaiku codebase, the service itself will live on thanks to a dedicated and passionate volunteer team of Googlers.
Jaiku’s Jyri stresses that this isn’t necessarily the end of Jaiku, and that doom-mongerers should wait and see what’ll happen with the site. This in a comment to the announcement on the Jaikido Blog:
While the future is uncertain (it always is), it’s also worth noting that the Jaiku that exists today was developed by independent people who were brought together by an interest to create a cool tool for sharing presence and conversation.
The next couple of months will be crucial for Jaiku. The service never really evolved after Google acquired it back in 2007, and went from being an advanced version of Twitter, with support for both feeds and longer comments, to a stale alternative that people abandoned. In some countries, like Sweden for instance, Jaiku is perhaps more wide-spread than Twitter. Unless these volunteers can show commitment and resolution for Jaiku, I’d say the service will burn out and die.
Open sourcing the Jaiku engine is a great thing, however, and I believe that while Google did in fact plan a serious consumer alternative to Twitter, this is better business for the company. The idea is that you’ll be able to have your own microblogging engine inside your Google App, which smells like more enterprise money to me. This was believed to have happened a long time ago, so it’s about time.
Thord Daniel Hedengren is a designer, writer, and blogger, and also the former editor of The Blog Herald. He used to be a hotshot in the gaming industry in Sweden, but sold everything and went International. Most recently he wrote a book called Smashing WordPress: Beyond the Blog, and does loads of kickass design.