Just when you thought you had a handle on blogging and the social networking that takes place around this online activity, along comes microblogging.

Microblogging?

Just when you thought you had a handle on blogging and the social networking that takes place around this online activity, along comes microblogging.

Microblogging? No, it’s not blogging in smaller font. It’s more like blogging for people who don’t have anything to say but who want to stay connected, said Petteri Koponen, co-founder and CEO of a new online “microblogging” application called Jaiku.

Many in the tech realm compare Jaiku to Twitter, a messaging tool that allows users to post short text messages to the Internet from their phones or computers. Jaiku is similar in simplicity and mobility; users can interact with it via mobile devices or online.

The Jaiku premise revolves around users adding “jaikus,” which, similar to the Japanese short-form poems, haikus, are short messages updating your network about what you are doing, how you are feeling or where you are located. Many jaikus can turn into casual conversations as other users comment on them.

It can be described as “nonintrusive” networking, according to Koponen. “It’s nonintrusive in a sense because you post a Jaiku that says ‘I’m going to a bar this evening’ and then your friends can reply if they want or are interested … whereas if you send e-mail to friends directly and they don’t want to go, it’s much more intrusive and they need to reply or it’s considered not very polite,” he said.

Applying this to real estate, Koponen said he envisions an agent setting up his or her own channel or account and adding updates about the local market throughout the day. For example, an agent could post “Just got back from securing a new listing at 22 Main St., should be on the MLS by the end of the week.” Or, “I’m hosting an open house in this neighborhood on Sunday if anyone’s interested in three-bedroom homes here.”

The application could be used to keep in touch with clients or prospective clients who are watching the market closely without much effort on the agent’s part other than supplying updates from time to time.

The other idea for use in real estate, Koponen said, is for a brokerage firm to set up a channel on a topic like San Francisco houses. People could go there to read updates from others who may have noticed certain houses for sale on their block or a new development down the street.

At the moment, users cannot set up their own channels, but the company has created a few for its early adopters.

Bloggers can add a Jaiku badge to the sidebar of their personal and business blogs to update those site visitors on Jaiku content for that user.

Jaiku at first glance faces the obstacle of having to differentiate itself from the similar Twitter service that’s already used by many in the inner Web 2.0 circles. Jaiku has different functionalities, including the ability to incorporate a person’s entire online presence there — meaning users can add RSS feeds from their blogs or social bookmarking site Del.icio.us, photo streams from Flickr, and even streams from Twitter. Users also can spark conversations with others by commenting on their jaikus.

Jaiku gained a lot of recognition in early April after technology author and broadcaster Leo Laporte publicly abandoned Twitter for Jaiku. Laporte, who hosts several weekly technology-focused radio and television shows and podcasts, reportedly was concerned about a growing confusion over the perceived connection between Twitter and his podcast show, TWiT (This Week in Tech), which have no formal business affiliations.

Laporte was among the first to have a Jaiku channel set up for his TWiT show. Fans and friends can connect to the channel, make posts and comment on other posts, which creates a sort of chat-room interface that’s smooth and fun.

Jaiku, based in Helsinki, Finland, draws its roots from the mobile services technology industry. Co-founders Koponen and Jyri Engestrom, who also serves as chairman, each have held key executive positions at mobile service companies, including Nokia, ShiftControl Finland and First Hop.

The company has released an API, enabling third-party developers to experiment with building new applications. “We have something like 13 or 14 external projects — that we know about,” said Koponen.

The chief executive also said that there have been a number of creative ideas for using custom channels at Jaiku, including one from an ad agency that wants to use the service to prop up an anti-smoking campaign.

Jaiku is currently free to users, and Koponen said the company would like to continue offering a free service, but is considering someday offering a premium paid service on top of it.

Jaiku is also planning to release a round of widgets in the next few weeks, he said.

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