Jaiku is going to be like Twitter -- they're very similar services. But I'm not sure if Google meant for Jaiku to be so much like Twitter, complete with a bunch of downtime and errors. I'm kidding, but seriously, what does Google have in store for Jaiku? Since acquiring the service three months ago, we hadn't heard a peep about the service from either company. Until yesterday when Jaiku co-founder Jyri Engeström posted an update on the company's blog.Recent performance would suggest: be just like Twitter. Well, of course
But beyond assuring users that the team was working to fix the service issues, he didn't give much information about where the company is headed. "[We have] been working hard on the next steps for Jaiku, and are already making progress on what I think are some cool new ways to help you stay connected with the people you care about. We cant share any of the specifics right now, but stay tuned," he wrote, rather cryptically.
"As for Jaiku, it appears to have fallen through the cracks at Google and is rapidly sinking as a result of neglect," wrote Ars Technica's Ryan Paul on Tuesday. "Unless Google takes some decisive action soon, the service might not retain its existing user base for much longer."
While Engström's blogged response disputes that Jaiku is being neglected, there is no doubt that the service has lost considerable ground to Twitter -- ground it can't afford to lose. According to Compete, Jaiku's traffic peaked in October 2007, around the time of the Google acquisition, but has fallen steadily since (off nearly 30% last month). Twitter, meanwhile, has continued gaining, up over 10% last month. Though Jaiku's traffic is still way up on the year, it is off since the Google purchase and the service still attracts just a tiny fraction of the visitors that Twitter does.
Can Jaiku ever catch Twitter in the presence app market (or Tumblr in the microblogging market, for that matter)? That seems unlikely. But that's also not what I surmise Google wants to do with Jaiku.
What really sets Jaiku apart from Twitter, is that it can aggregate and automatically republish stories from your other activity streams: blog posts, del.icio.us links, Flicker photos, even Twitter updates. In this regard, it is a lot like Tumblr (another service that has a huge lead on it traffic-wise). I think this is the part of Jaiku that Google was interested in when it purchased the site -- Jaiku as an activity stream aggregator, not Jaiku as a presence app.
We heard last summer about a Google sponsored project at Carnegie Mellon University called "Socialstream." Socialstream's goal was to "create a system for users to seamlessly share, view, and respond to many types of social content across multiple network." The idea was basically for Socialstream to be a hub for all of your social networking activity -- whether that was on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Digg, or Flickr -- all of your attention data would be collected in one place where you could manage and share it.
This is an ambitious project, and to work it means that social networks need to embrace data portability -- something that we're seeing begin to happen right now (maybe). If the Data Portability Working Group actually realizes their goals, and social networks tear down the garden walls and let users export their data, and if I'm right about Google's plans for Jaiku (which, I'll point out, is complete speculation on my part), then Jaiku could become a very important service this year.
What do you think? Would it make sense for Google to take Jaiku in this direction? Or have I completely lost it? Let us know in the comments below.