This morning, my Twitter stream was peppered with expressions of concern over a possible takeover of the well known microblogging service by Facebook or Google. My advice to everyone — Don’t Panic.

I’ll go so far as to suggest that Twitter getting absorbed might be in some ways a good thing.  Although Twitter has been a comparatively good corporate citizen ( for example, challenging the secrecy of Justice Department requests for user data), it’s centralized design still carries risks.

  • The entire ecosystem has a single point of failure (bring on the fail whale).
  • Should the ownership of Twitter change, new management may have less interest in protecting user privacy.

The good news is that alternatives to Twitter are more robust than those challenging , say, Facebook.  Most notable is StatusNet (formerly laconica). StatusNet already federates, and can read Twitter streams via the Twitter API. My personal sense is that OStatus , StatusNet’s answer to OAuth, has a much wider adoption gap. Nevertheless, most of the pieces for an alternative are in place.

If Twitter were absorbed,  concerned users could migrate to their own (the code is open source) instances, figure out some way to communicate their federation information to followers, and go on their way. The resulting system would be less convenient, but more robust than what we have now.

 

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