To describe 2009 as the year Twitter came of age would be rather unremarkable and perhaps cliched – after all a month ago a headline in the Guardian announced “‘Twitter’ declared top word of 2009“.

But if 2009 was the year of Twitter what was 2009 not? That might provide a more interesting way of looking at what failed to happen.

I would suggest that 2009:

  • Was not the year for open source alternatives to Twitter. After all, does anyone use, which describes itself as “an Open Network Service” and goes on to add that “all the software used for is Free Software” and “the software also implements the OpenMicroBlogging protocol, meaning that you can have friends on other microblogging services that can receive your notices“? I should add that I have an account which I don’t use.
  • Was not the year for a decentralised alternative to Twitter. Has anyone even heard of
  • Was not the year in which FriendFeed successfully challenged Twitter. I know that this service has some popularity on the science community (for example a #solo09 channel was used for the Science Online 2009 conference). I have an account with FriendFeed which I use to automatically buy topiramate 100 mg pull in content from Twitter, newly published blog posts and a number of other RSS feeds. But since FriendFeed was acquired by Facebook in August 2009 there seems to have been few developments to the services and the change in ownership appears to have given rise to concerns amongst parts of the FriendFeed community.
  • Was not the year Google deployed a successful competitor to Twitter. The Jaiku service was purchased by Google in October 2007 and “on January 14, 2009 it was announced that Google would be open-sourcing the product … leaving development to a “passionate volunteer team of Googlers“. I have an account with Jaiku but again I don’t use the service.
  • Was not the year for the more richly functional alternatives to Twitter such as Pownce which was closed down on December 15, 2008.

Who’d have thought that the big hit of 2009 would be a centralised service whose ‘fail whale’ failures have become such a cult hit – especially when there have been alternatives which are either supported by large and successful companies or are based on open source and open standards solutions? I wonder whether 2010 will provide any similar services whose successes challenge our expectations?