There's been an interesting debate in the blogosphere this week about ways to decentralize Twitter. The reason behind it are obviously Twitter's frequent outages and the lingering question whether the system will completely break down once Paris Hilton joins. Or even Perez Hilton, I guess. Techcrunch sums up the conversation in this post and writes:

"The key weakness in Twitter (and therefore opportunity for a new decentralized approach) is the fact that so much Twitter activity occurs off Twitter.com. Users are getting very used to using desktop clients (Twitterific, Alert Thingy, Twhirl, etc.), IM, SMS, and other interfaces to talk to Twitter. Those third party applications can be tuned to lock in to the new decentralized Twitter-like service instead or in addition to Twitter itself."

Long time P2P delevoper Adam Fisk however thinks decentralizing Twitter is a bad idea. He writes:

"Martin Fowler’s First Law of Distributed Computing continually rings true: don’t distribute your objects. Why? Because it’s hard."

It would be especially hard in a case like Twitter, because you would end up distributing data that isn't really meant to be distributed in a P2P fashion, says Fisk:

"Distributed computing has shown itself to be particularly useful for moving around large files. In Twitter’s case, you’re working from the opposite extreme: processing a high volume of tiny messages. This screams centralization."


There might be a compromise out there though. One way to solve the Twitter problem would be to leave the service centralized for network-wide communication, but establish a decentralized version for near-field communication. Spanish developers are currently working on a P2P messaging application called Fluid Nexus that doesn't even use the Telco's networks. Instead, it relies on Bluetooth to broadcast messages to nearby users.

Fluid Nexus is made with an activist and relief worker user base in mind, and it certainly makes sense for these scenarios. It really doesn't matter in the grad scheme of things whether Jason Calacanis' 24.000 followers can read every single message he spits out. The world doesn't end if Twitter doesn't work in cases like this one.

Relief work on the other hand, or pro-democracy demonstrations against repressive regimes, call for decentralized Twitter-like systems that can't be censored and don't just switch to LOLcats every time the message load spikes. Of course this would work great a a conference back channel as well. The Fluid Nexus team is currently developing an Andoid client, so we might see this ready to use for next year's conference season. Here's a quick video overview:


Fluid Nexus on Android from Nick Knouf on Vimeo.

Tags: , , , , , ,