Open Source microblogging with Status.Net

Statusnet

Status.Net, the open source microblogging software (which powers the Twitter alternative, identi.ca), released version 1.0 in the last few days. Status.Net already had a good engine under the hood, but there is quite a selection of new out-of-the-box features in this release that really benefit end users.

Apart from the flag ship identi.ca network, who is actually using Status.Net? In this recent interview with Status.Net, it was reported Deutsche Bank, Motorola Mobility (case study from 2009) and SAP are using the software. I had also heard that the UK government was using Status.Net on their internal secure network, however I don’t know if that is current.

So, why bother with Status.Net when there is a good selection of commercial competitors in the marketplace?

Firstly, Status.Net do offer a hosted version, with free and premium options. If cost is a concern then it certainly looks like one of the cheaper options, with the premium version starting at only US$3 per user per month. Status.Net already supports a range of desktop and mobile apps, so users won’t be missing out on critical features taking this option.

But as you would expect there are some differences and gaps – you certainly aren’t going to get the system integration or extra collaboration features that tibbr supports or that Chatter offers with Salesforce. And while you can federate Status.Net servers, its not quite the same as Yammer Communities. This can be a good thing, because on the other hand Status.Net was never designed just for the enterprise market and you can use it in ways that enterprise-orientated products wouldn’t be a good fit for.

Perhaps the most interesting option with Status.Net, since it is open source, is to host your own – this might be an option if you:

  • Want complete control over the application, data and/or look and feel – this could include hosting a Status.Net site for internal use, but it might be that you want a custom customer or business partner facing site.
  • You want to utilise a microblogging tool for a use case that the commercial options don’t want to support or aren’t designed to support.
  • You want to use the underlying Status.Net activity stream engine for doing something unique.

Status.Net might also be a good option for a pilot, where firewall or corporate policy completely blocks the use of externally hosted tools.

I should point out that at version 1.0 for other than the basics, the administration and configuration of the site does still require the direct editing of configuration files and style sheets. However, if I look at the Elgg experience – where the back-end admin has improved immensely with the 1.8 release  – then I’m sure this will improve with time, but its quite as easy as installing and maintaining something like WordPress.

Personally, I do also find the Extended Profile plugin a little frustrating in its current implementation – for an enterprise use-case, I think the extra profile needs to be better integrated with the main interface as its easy to miss these details when browsing a user or updating your own profile – but this could be addressed as part of your own customisations.

Overall, I think Status.Net is worth watching and including in your list of options particularly if you either want something that just does core enterprise microblogging or you have some other non-standard use case in mind.

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