When Google bought Jaiku in October of last year, there was some thought that it would overtake Twitter as the go-to lifestreaming/status update site of choice on the Internet. Instead, Google completely and utterly neglected the service and gave its users a product that ranged from laughably inconsistent to unusable. But there’s a sign that’s about to change.
If you try to visit the Jaiku site right now, you’ll be greeted by a bird notifying you: “Folks, we’re offline for the weekend for server maintenance. Now’s a good time to talk to someone you love.”
So why the downtime? Google is moving Jaiku to the Google App Engine, its cloud-based servers capable of running applications, reports the Jaiku-focused blog Jaiku Invites. This move should make the unreliable service reliable once again. It could also mean that Jaiku will soon be switched to use Google accounts for its login and may finally open its registration that has been on lockdown since the Google acquisition, Jaiku Invites speculates.
This move is happening as word circulates that the first phones running Google’s Android software will be launching soon. Speculation had been that Jaiku would be a part of Google’s mobile strategy even before the details about Android were known. In fact, some suggested that Google bought Jaiku rather than Twitter because it was better suited for its mobile aspirations. (Though I still believe Google should have tried to buy FriendFeed instead.)
It may have been wise for Google to pay attention to Jaiku much earlier. After all, when Twitter was having all of its reliability issues a few months ago, users were screaming for a viable alternative option. Some tried to start using their Jaiku accounts again, but quickly moved back to Twitter after finding the service unreliable. (For example, while Jaiku lets you import feeds into your stream automatically, only some ever actually show up, seemingly at random.)
When Jaiku comes back online, it’ll be interesting to see what, if anything, has changed. Certainly you can never write off any Google-backed service, but if it hopes to compete with the likes of Twitter, FriendFeed and the now status updating and feed importing Facebook, Jaiku is going to have to make inroads to show it can be taken seriously once again.
A downtime Fail Whale (the lovable graphic Twitter uses when it’s down) rather than a bird (which is also reminiscent of the birds Twitter uses on parts of its site) may help Jaiku too.