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Jaiku: Like Twitter, But With More Features

Jaiku offers an alternative to Twitter that might be more attractive for many users. Jaiku includes built-in tools to integrate external sources of information -- weather, headline news, blogs -- into the stream. It also allows you to set up groups of users, for your friends, family, customers and partners, or anyone who shares a common interest, something that Twitter will likely get but doesn't now have.

Jaiku offers an alternative to Twitter that might be more attractive for many users. Jaiku includes built-in tools to integrate external sources of information -- weather, headline news, blogs -- into the stream. It also allows you to set up groups of users, for your friends, family, customers and partners, or anyone who shares a common interest, something that Twitter will likely get but doesn't now have.

Jaiku and Twitter are similar in that they're both in a category of "microblogging" services -- posting short messages on the Web that describe what you're doing -- eating breakfast, shopping, watching a movie. Users subscribe to other people's streams and hold conversations through the services.

Jaiku, based in Finland, offers a couple of refinements on the Twitter model. Jaiku offers threaded conversations -- if a message is in reply to another message from another user, you can automatically find the original message. In Twitter, you have to search for the original message manually. It's pretty simple to do in Twitter, but even simpler in Jaiku

Jaiku includes automated tools for adding RSS feds to the stream of messages. Twitter requires third-party tools.

Jaiku has a client that runs on Nokia mobile phones. Twitter wins on that one -- they have a lightweight Web version that's compatible with any mobile phone with a Web browser.

Jaiku launched in March; Twitter launched more than a year ago.

Eventually, Jaiku hopes to generate revenue from advertising once their user base gets big enough, said Jyri Engestrom, co-founder and chairman, in a phone interview. The company may also charge subscriptions for add-on services, and enter into agreements with phone providers.

Jaiku's user base is still relatively small, about 40,000 users. Engestrom said Twitter has hundreds of thousands of users (Twitter declined to comment on its user size). That could prove to be problematic for Jaiku. Jaiku's features appear to be more advanced, but users don't care as much about features in social networking services as they care about connecting to other people, and if the people they want to connect with are on Twitter, that's where they'll be. (For example, I'm on Twitter, and not planning to try out Jaiku anytime soon.) If advanced functionality were paramount in social networking, nobody would ever use MySpace.

Nonetheless, Engestrom is confident that Jaiku will do well, saying he thinks there's room for more than one player in the microblogging market.

He believes the ability to set up channels, for like-minded groups of people, will prove to be very attractive for people looking to set up groups for their friends, colleagues, or their kids' soccer teams.

The company is privately financed, and is looking to raise Series A venture capital.

We're doing a comparative review of microblogging services including Jaiku and Twitter. Look for it to go up Wednesday.

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Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
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John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
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