How Jaiku Can Succeed: End Those Walled Gardens

jaiku Jaiku generated a lot of interest this October when it announced its acquisition by Google. Suddenly Jaiku accounts were in high demand (not least because they shut off non-invited registrations).

Around this time, along with many others, I decided to find out what the fuss was about and explore Jaiku (I also wanted to be on there in case Google announced something funky with their new toy).

Along with a lot of those people, I discovered that Jaiku just isn’t as useful as some other services out there.

Strengths

I like a lot of the basic ideas behind the tool:

  • Like Twitter, it can push messages out to IM and text
  • Unlike Twitter, it can aggregate RSS feeds from your multiple accounts to show a ‘lifestream
  • You can comment on others’ posts, creating an easily-trackable conversation
  • Comments don’t have the 140-character limit that regular posts have.

Weaknesses

I also found a few fundamental weaknesses that undermine Jaiku’s usefulness for me. Two in particular:

  • It doesn’t seem to update feeds regularly or thoroughly. According to Jaiku, Chris Brogan only posted on Twitter once today. According to Twitter, he’s up to 36 posts at this time. Not very helpful
  • You can post comments on Jaiku messages, but if the item is being drawn from a contact’s feed then adding a comment to that seems counter-productive. Given that, you have to go over to the other application and post your response there.

Perhaps this is why, in North America at least, Jaiku doesn’t seem to have the market penetration that Twitter has.

From my perspective, Jaiku is losing the micro-blogging battle with Twitter. I’d be interested to see the stats, but my perception is that they just don’t have the numbers. Meanwhile, Twitter just seems to keep growing.

Unless Jaiku pulls something huge out of the bag (which they may – I don’t think Google bought the company because of its funky stylings), I see failure in its future.

What Can Jaiku Do To Succeed?

Two things.

#1: Fix the feed updating issue. If someone’s Twitter, del.icio.us and Flickr accounts are linked to Jaiku, I want to see all of their updates, not a small sub-set. Without this, nothing else matters.

#2: Change Jaiku’s focus.

Jaiku should focus on breaking into the walled gardens around other applications.

I’ve written twice recently about the crazy number of new tools out there, and the need for one tool to pull the others together.

The time for walled gardens is over. Open fields are the way forward from here.

Jaiku has a great base for achieving that.

Jaiku could increase its value ten-fold by becoming the tool that aggregates multiple channels and allowing people to respond via those channels.

How would this work?

Context

Jaiku’s comment feature should be context-sensitive.

If my contact posts a Flickr photo, let me comment on the Flickr page for that photo.

If they post a Facebook update, let me post a comment to their wall.

If they write a blog post or record an audio Utterz, let me comment on that.

If there are many possible ways to reply within an application, give me options.

I’m not a technical expert. I don’t know if the various APIs allow this. Bottom line: if they don’t, they should. They would benefit along with Jaiku (side bonus: Google gets more data, too).

What’s more, Jaiku now has Google’s weight behind it when negotiating this with companies.

Stop this one-way sucking of information from other sites. Make it two-way.

That’s how Jaiku could differentiate itself. That’s how it could set itself apart from the pack.

The current fragmentation of web tools can’t go on. There are too many applications out there, all doing their own thing.

There’s a gaping hole in the market for a service to pull them all together.

Without that, a lot of these tools will join TechCrunch’s deadpool. Jaiku may be one of them.

  • Allowing comments all the way back onto the pages where the original item appeared is not as straightforward as it seems because I could push content to Jaiku from a password-protected zone and no API would be able to negotiate a comment. Being able to comment back onto a place like Flickr would mean having a user name and password for Flickr. Just having a Jaiku account would not give you commenting privileges on Flickr.

    I’ve watched the feed issue surge back and forth on several microcontent platforms. If the upstream site (like Twitter in the case of Chris Brogan) is slow to serve its feeds, Jaiku cannot pull the data for the previous hour. And when Jaiku tries to pull the data an hour later from Twitter, it doesn’t always go back to find all the tweets since the last time it updated the Jaiku page of the contact. In my experience, Google Reader, Bloglines and Jaiku cannot compensate for slow feed service from an upstream host.

    I’m interested in seeing the growth curves for both Twitter and Jaiku once Jaiku opens up invitations again.

  • Thanks for your thoughtful comments Bernie.

    Like I mentioned, I’m no technical expert. Maybe it’s not possible. But then… why couldn’t Jaiku let you store or enter your logins for other sites? If you don’t have an account with them, the comment may have to stay with Jaiku. It wouldn’t be easy to implement, but what game-changer is?

    As far as the feeds go, it’s a fundamental problem in my view. Regardless of where the blame lays, it undermines the service for me. Like it or not, that makes it Jaiku’s problem.

    Great to hear your thoughts, especially as you’re a regular Jaiku user. Thanks again!