Google Acquires Social Addressing Service Jaiku

Early this afternoon, the developers of an all-purpose, presence-providing application for instant messaging, IRC, and other communications services announced it has been acquired by Google.

Jaiku, a messaging application that lets communicators know who's available, what they're up to, and whether they'd really like to speak with you, will soon be part of Google's services, though the company today admitted it wasn't quite sure how it would bring that about.

"We plan to use the ideas and technology behind Jaiku to make compelling and useful products," said product manager Tony Hsieh on Google's corporate blog this afternoon. "Although we don't have definite plans to announce at this time, we're excited about helping drive the next round of developments in web and mobile technology."

Launched in July 2006, Jaiku describes itself as "an activity stream and presence sharing service that works from the Web and mobile phones." Its members are identified with a modicum of information, including a personal icon, which is stored in the company's global directory.

These entries are then arranged into any number of channels. Those channels may represent a mutual interest, but they may also be engaged in a "stream" - essentially a forum thread where brief messages are shared and responded to. IRC chat services are currently retrofitted with Jaiku stream capability, enabling members of a stream to text one another using an existing, reliable service, although instant messaging and SMS also serve as possible backbones for impromptu streams.

Personal streams are visible through a Jaiku Web page, and easily serve as "microblogs" for individuals who want to help others keep track of where they are and what they're doing.

Currently, the application has seen new popularity on Nokia brand smart phones, particularly those that run Symbian S60. This may be what peeked Google's interest, since Jaiku's principal competition, Twitter -- which analysts believe holds the largest audience in this category -- does not have its own officially mobile-dedicated application just yet. Presently, it does have a mobile-friendly version of its Web page, which does use Java.

In a blog post this afternoon, Jaiku founder Jyri Engestrom said his service will for the time being suspend activation of new users with the exception of friends invited in by existing users, as well as beta testers for new editions. This is evidently to help the service make a timely exodus from its existing host, the Finnish-based Nebula, to Google servers. Last April, Jaiku suffered a serious service outage which Engestrom blamed on Nebula.

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