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On Jaiku, Google, and Twitter: The Value of "Buddies," Attention Lock-in, and a mild-WTF

(Someone asked us to comment on the Jaiku acquisition in email. Usually I let these things rot in my sent folder, but I thought I’d be lazy and do a little “re-posting” with some gussying-up, if you will.)

As you, dear readers, probably know, I’m actually not to hip to Jaiku and much more a fan of Twitter ( That said, Jaiku is more featureful than Twitter, which can be both good and bad depending on where you fall on the question of simplicity. I’m not quite one to buy into the “simplicity is a panacea of software/service success” that I may seem to be: complexity is plenty good when it works. However, it’s usually safer to err on the side of simplicity rather than complexity.

Features vs. People

In the case of Twitter vs. Jaiku, I think the simplicity works. Each time I’ve tried to use Jaiku, the sheer number of things I can do makes me think too much. With Twitter, I can easily satisfy that reflex to produce content when I’m bored or excited.

Vastly more important than the question of features and simplicity is the content, the people, in the system. If there was the same pack of Web 2.0 groupies, RedMonk people, and other folks I know in Jaiku or Pownce, I’m sure I’d use and like those platforms. In my case, at least, the raw differentiator for Twitter vs. Jaiku and Pownce are the people in it, pretty much end of story. All the features in the world, like threaded conversations, don’t mean much to me if there’s no content/people filling those features.

Social Lock-in

Interestingly, there’s a certain amount of “lock-in” around that kind hooking up your “social graph” in social networks like Jaiku, Twitter, Pownce, and Facebook. Theoretically, you could you “easily” leave one social network for another. But getting all your “buddies” to migrate may be more of a hassle than it’s worth. That collective laziness effectively locks you into the service. I bet there’s some whiz-bang sweet spot graph you could draw here based on number of “buddies” in the system, feature set, and lock-in potential.

I’m no numbers person, but I’d wager there’s a “going rate” for the number of connections in social networks with lock-in factored in: figuring out how much Google paid for Jaiku and how many connections are in there would be an interesting number to play around with.

Why does “lock-in” matter? Well, what else is worth paying for but a URL-full of eye-balls and ad-clickers? On the web, there’re few things CREAMier than attention lock-in, much as I may personally detest it.

Why Buy Jaiku

I’m not a good Google tea-leaf reader, but I’d guess they’re just looking for raw hits but also to acquire the pool of people and connections in Jaiku. In each case, there’s plenty of space to sell ads of some sort, fueling Google’s prime revenue stream.

Nothing against Jaiku, really, but honestly, I’m bit flumixed as to why Google would buy Jaiku over Twitter: I find Twitter the much better of the two for the people and simplicity reasons mentioned above. Maybe they don’t want to acquire from the same team twice (many Twitter folks were at Or maybe Twitter had a bad case of the “we’re worth $40 billion”-itous. Or maybe Twitter didn’t seem nerdy enough for Google?

Passing the Ball

Another interesting angle is looking at one of Google’s past acquisitions along these lines: Dodgeball. While Dodgeball was based around broadcasting your current location to your friends, it was actually quite widely used, at least in circles I run in.

Google seems to have not done too well with that asset; indeed, as I recall the original Dodgeball founders left saying that Google wasn’t giving them enough support. Dodgeball would have been a great platform and service to build a Jaiku or Twitter-like platform on-top of, and yet Dodgeball went through a tragically stalled-by-acquisition phase that I’m not sure it ever recovered from. Dodgeball was quickly eclipsed by Jaiku and Twitter, and it’d suck for Jaiku to get hit by that ball this go-around.

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Categories: Community, Marketing, Social Software.

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One Response

  1. I totally agree cote…on the attention and friends lock in point. I don't actually know much about Jaiku at all because I don't have many friends who use, and most who do use Twitter too. Twitter's IM integration is the killer app for me though, I have gtalk on the desktop, browser and on my blackberry all with great UIs that's the killer part of it for me. I feel like I force myself to go into pownce now…and there are far fewer posting there than at First. Who knows why google but Jaiku…maybe the team issues with Twitter you state, but Twitter seems more goolge-esque to me. Tweet on!