I'm nearly always disappointed when news comes out that one of the big four (
Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool Google, Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo!) buy out a company I like. Nothing is ever the same again; usually the product just disappears into the ether. Is Jaiku, the Twitter-like presence tool bought by Google a few months back, destined for the same scrapheap?
While [Jaiku co-founder Jyri] Engström's blogged response disputes that Jaiku is being neglected, there is no doubt that the service has lost considerable ground to Twitter -- ground it can't afford to lose. According to Compete, Jaiku's traffic peaked in October 2007, around the time of the Google acquisition, but has fallen steadily since (off nearly 30% last month). Twitter, meanwhile, has continued gaining, up over 10% last month. Though Jaiku's traffic is still way up on the year, it is off since the Google purchase and the service still attracts just a tiny fraction of the visitors that Twitter does.
But the usually astute ReadWriteWeb may have missed the point about why Google bought Jaiku:
What really sets Jaiku apart from Twitter, is that it can aggregate and automatically republish stories from your other activity streams: blog posts, del.icio.us links, Flicker photos, even Twitter updates. In this regard, it is a lot like Tumblr (another service that has a huge lead on it traffic-wise). I think this is the part of Jaiku that Google was interested in when it purchased the site -- Jaiku as an activity stream aggregator, not Jaiku as a presence app.
With respect, I don't think so. As I wrote back in October, I think it's Jaiku's mobile development and potential that Google wants. To quote myself (appalling, I know):
The point here is that Jaiku is one of the first of such tools to shift the social web to the mobile social web.
Jonathan Mulholland puts it well in this November post:
Why Jaiku then? I think the answer lies in mobility, specifically location and mobile integration.
Let’s look at location first. Jaiku is I think unique in combining micro-blogging AND user location awareness. For the uninitiated, when posting status updates Jaiku has the ability to capture and share the location information (neighbourhood, city, country) of the poster in real time. So in addition to a message post Jaiku can provide real time location awareness of users. Hmmm that’s interesting…
And how does Jaiku do this? An integral part of the service is a client application for Symbian S60 platform mobile phones. The client uses location APIs within S60 devices to triangulate the handset (and the users) location based on nearby cellular network towers. The Jaiku client was in fact originally conceived as a ’status aware address book’, and as such integrates into compatible S60 phones to the extent that it also shares the phones (and again the users) status availability ( - General, In Meeting, Outdoor etc).
So in addition to a message post AND location awareness you also have deep mobile integration sufficient to identify the status of a user as well. That makes things really interesting, and its this combination that I think is the clever part. Consider this thought:
Post + Location + Status = Value
In short, Jaiku was built by former Nokia developers frustrated that Nokia didn't get the real power of mobile phones. Presence/Location/Status is powerful because mobile phones are with us all the time. Google ain't dumb: it realises the future is on the mobile phone. So it needs to make sure it dominates that. Jaiku, in theory, gets them there.
In theory, because right now Jaiku is withering on the vine. If Google is interested only in the guys behind Jaiku, that's good, but a smarter move would be to keep building a critical mass of early adopters around Jaiku so that when the time comes for it to enter the mainstream, it's our default presence/location/status tool of choice. Right now nearly all my Jaiku friends have stopped using it, and I can't imagine they're going to be interested in going back.
Besides, Facebook has come along in the meantime and threatens to make Jaiku (and to a certain extent Twitter) meaningless. Facebook has succeeded in attracting the attention, and time, of millions of people for whom social networking was an alien concept. It's going to be easier for Facebook to come along with a Twitter/Jaiku killer and move that prepped audience to the mobile phone (yes, in some ways it's already happening, with the Facebook mobile app) than it is for Twitter and Jaiku to persuade more users to commit to their tools. If I can find all I need to know about what my friends are doing on Facebook Mobile, why do I need Jaiku?
Google may not understand this particularly well, because it's not been in this kind of business before. Google has not really been in the sticky community building business before (except Orkut, I guess, which has long suffered/thrived on benign neglect). In short, you don't leave something like Jaiku lying around with outages and feature doldrums if you don't want to lose your evangelistic early users. By the time it's ready for Google's attention, there may not be much of a user base left.