A service announces that the software is to be made available under an open source licence. That’s good news, isn’t it?
A company announces that one of its is to be withdrawn. That’s bad news, isn’t it?
But what if a service makes both announcements in the same press release. How should we react to the news? That’s the dilemma which uses of the Jaiku micro-blogging service are faced with following Google’s announcement: “Changes for Jaiku and Farewell to Dodgeball and Mashup Editor“. Vic Gundotra, Vice President, Engineering gave a positive spin to this announcement “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“. He then went on to add that “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“.
Some commenters focussed on the move to an open source licence (e.g. “Jaiku is going open source on Google App Engine“) whilst other headlines were more negative (“Google kills Jaiku“). For me, however, the interesting aspect of this news is how it should help to move the discussion on beyond simplistic cliches and perceptions.
A couple of articles struck me as particularly interesting. An article published in The Enquisitr entitled “Google Massacre: Google Closes Jaiku, Dodgeball, Notebook, Catalog Search; Google Video Downgraded” felt that “The cut to Jaiku puts what was once a promising platform out of its misery. Since acquiring Jaiku, Google has all but ignored the service, culminating in a weekend long and seemingly unnoticed downtime in August.”
Meanwhile a Techcrunch article entitled “Jaiku Founder: ‘We’re Not Dying, We’re Morphing’” has generated a lively discussion on Google’s motivations for this announcement. I needed to read the statement that “But few people seem to care that handing out the code to the open source community and starting the ‘Jaiku Engine’ project is actually great news for companies, groups and individuals who were looking to roll their own, decentralized microsharing / lifestreaming applications, initiatives we’ve seen pop up here and there already” in order to make sense of it.
But the comment that “If the code that Google is releasing only makes it possible for you to run “Jaiku Engine” only on Google’s App Engine, then it is not open enough. I have the feeling that this will be the case.” is intriguing. Are Google buying software such as Jaiku in order to ensure they will run on their platform engine before making the source code available to others in the belief that the big money is to be made in providing the platform and not the application.
Now isn’t this the approach which has proved so profitable for Microsoft over the past 20 years? And, if so, isn’t Jaiku just a pawn in a much bigger game? But on the other hand if you’re simply a user of such services, maybe you don’t care about issues such as ownership and open source. And, after all, it’s the users who ultimately determine whether a service will be used or note, not the developers.