It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall over at Twitter HQ today, now that Google has acquired Jaiku — a mobile social-networking app that from all descriptions is pretty similar to Twitter (disclosure: I haven’t actually used Jaiku, but I do use Twitter sporadically). After all, Twitter is the one that has been getting all the geek cred from the Robert Scobles of the world, and from the sounds of it Twitter’s app has a far bigger reach.

prod-mobile.jpgSo the big question is the one that Adam Ostrow at Mashable asks in his post on the deal: Why Jaiku and not Twitter? I know that Jaiku has its fans — including Leo Laporte, who got upset that Twitter’s name was too close to the word Twit (which is the abbreviated name of his podcast This Week in Tech), and quit the network to move over to Jaiku — but there’s no question that Twitter had the name. Not only that, but Evan Williams of Twitter is a former Googler himself, having sold Blogger to the search engine giant.

Could that be part of the reason why Twitter wasn’t as good a candidate for an acquisition? In the comments on Adam’s post at Mashable, someone raises that possibility, suggesting that there might be bad blood between Evan and Google over his departure and that of other former Googlers who left to go and work at Twitter.

Charlie O’Donnell says that he sees the deal as a case of Jaiku’s founders throwing in the towel and being absorbed by the Google Borg, something he says he finds disappointing. Google did the same thing with Dodgeball — which as far as I can recall was very much like Jaiku but was developed three years ago — and the founders later left, saying they were unhappy with the lack of support from the search behemoth.

Further reading:

Marc Orchant at Blognation has some thoughts about why Google decided to acquire Jaiku instead of Twitter, and so does Tim O’Reilly. Both see Jaiku as being more about mobile “presence” rather than just being an instant-messaging style service.

About the author

Mathew 2430 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

12 Responses to “Google: Why Jaiku and not Twitter?”
  1. I may be alone on this but I don’t think that Jaiku and Twitter are the same thing. Twitter seems to essentially be a communication/microblogging tool. Jaiku, on the other hand, seems to deal in what they call presence management i.e. consolidating the multiple activities/identities that one has around the ‘net and collecting them all in one place. When you look at Jaiku as an aggregrator of sorts – pulling your blog postings, twitters, Flickr uploads etc. all together – the acquisition by Google seems to make more sense, at least to me.

  2. That’s a good point, Nav.

  3. good pot matthew. lots of underlying stuff going on in nerdville

  4. @Nav (to borrow from a Twitter convention) yes, which explains the comments that have been made about the Jaiku acquisition being a targeted attack at Facebook, not Twitter.

  5. So what – google wanted to pay for technology and team, not users. What’s the big deal? Google’s got the reach; if they wanted to blow away twitter’s numbers with Jaiku, they could do so in a week.

    The real question in all of this is why dodgeball was allowed to wither on the vine, and whether Jaiku will get any better treatment.

  6. Well, at least we can be pretty sure the reason wasn’t money :) I’m guessing the answer will start to make itself apparent as Google’s mobile OS plans become clearer over the next few months.

  7. I hope you’re right, Adam — it would be a pity to see Jaiku wither on the vine like Dodgeball did.

  8. I would guess that it has more to do with the fact that jaiku has an actual mobile client. Google needs peole for their Gphone!

  9. I’d be surprised if that happened. I haven’t been able to track down Dodgeball numbers circa acquisition time, but I’m assuming Jaiku’s user base is way bigger than Dodgeball’s was when Google bought it. Dodgeball was a little ahead of its time IMO, but Jaiku has too many users at this point for Google to totally ignore the community and catch the wave of negative PR. At least, that’s how I would rationally think about it …

  10. good post mathew – you can click my name for my full thoughts but here are some notes:

    — jaiku can be molded, twitter already has too many scobles

    — not sure if jaiku had vc, but it probably made the purchase smaller and easier

    — with the stock price changes over the past month, this acq probably cost them nothing :)

    — twitter has big issues with stability

  11. Those are all good points, Allen.

  12. Allen has some valid points particularly the last two. Heck Google probably bought Jaiku with TODAY’s stock increase!

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