There's no more riding through the transit station on roller blades - the rental shops aren't keeping them in good enough repair. That could be an analogy for a decision announced today by Gnip, a startup aiming to become the ultimate ping server for social media.

XMPP/Jabber, the Open Source real-time communication protocol popularized by Instant Messaging that many have hoped would serve as foundation for a real-time web of the future, has become too much trouble to support and will no longer be a supported protocol at Gnip. More than just one protocol, it's a story of long tail developer communities and the ambitious startups forced to make resource decisions.

Gnip founder Eric Marcoullier told us that the company really wants to support XMPP but that it's taking up an inordinate amount of support time, in many cases just because data consumers are using Google Talk or Jabber.org servers and are being throttled.

Marcoullier says there are simply no open source Jabber servers that are capable of the kind of robustness that a social media ping server requires. If a major vendor came to Gnip and said they wanted data streamed to them exclusively in XMPP, the company would continue the practice, but the long tail of tiny consumers that want their data that way is taking up too much resources. The company's top priorities are data delivery and maximizing the number of publishers participating in their program.

Our top priority as industry watchers is to cheer for radical innovation online, something that is in some cases more likely to come from the marginal developers making up the Long Tail that Gnip is herein limiting its support for.

Does This Matter?

This move may be less significant than it seems, though, too. The real-time communication experience is still available via basic Restful push, Marcoullier says, but for now XMPP in particular will be turned off this week.

When Gnip launched, we thought that XMPP in particular and protocol transformation in general were key to its value proposition. Months later, the company says that there is data normalization occurring but no protocol transformations are being performed.

Gnip now has a total of five developers, most recently adding enterprise data specialist Michael Barinek onto the team. The company has significant momentum even if today's announcement feels like it's losing some sexy sheen.

We hope that Gnip can continue to advance its goals of making the social web faster and more scalable. While we're disappointed that this hyped protocol is giving them too much trouble, we hope that a future web of real-time communication can come to us promptly none the less.