Pownce (a microblogging service) has been sold to SixApart and decided to close the service on December 15 which is a nice early Christmas present for all their users - both freeloaders (like me) and ‘Pro’ users who pay $20 per year.

Although I have a dormant Pownce account, I don’t actively use the service. However, I find it odd that Pownce have decided to close the service and provide all their users with just two weeks notice to extract all their data and find another home.

The Pownce blog claims that:

‘we believe we’ll come back with something much better in 2009’

However, that ‘belief’ must be pretty weak and the date in 2009 must be a long way away. Otherwise, why on earth would Pownce and SixApart force all the existing Pownce users to evaluate and migrate to alternative services if a viable, better alternative was being planned.

Will those users really come running back to SixApart after being kicked out ? When they’re already been forced to move once ? After the way they’ve been treated ?

Surely, it would have been better to do what Google did with Jaiku. Absolutely nothing. Leave the service exactly as it is with no fixes, no improvements, no additional services or functionality. That way, the hardcore, diehard users will remain on Pownce and, at least, you have a hope of getting those users converted onto the new SixApart product (whenever it is available). There are a few obvious choices for Pownce users:

  • Twitter - more stability and increased uptime recently but limited to 140 characters (unlike Pownce) and inferior support for file sharing.
  • Tumblr - probably the closest match in terms of functionality (no 140 character limit, support for media posts (images, links, audio, videos)
  • FriendFeed - includes most of Pownce functionality.
  • identi.ca - micro-blogging service but OpenSource so the opportunity exists to run a separate Laconica instance for Pownce users and potentially support the Pownce API (and hence all existing desktop Pownce clients).
  • Posterous - supports MP3, photos, audio files and posting by email.

In fact, identi.ca have already responded to the imminent demise of Pownce and started work on the ability to import Pownce feeds into identi.ca and are actively looking for developers to assist with providing a Pownce compatible API.

However, I suspect the main issues here for disillusioned Pownce users aren’t purely technical and won’t necessarily depend on the advantages and disadvantages of the alternative services. The key factor will probably be the ‘community’ which has now been suddenly and forcibly broken up.

I suspect most Pownce users are on Pownce for a reason - they like the Pownce service and they like the community they have forged on Pownce. Consequently, I suspect a significant number will simply migrate wherever the majority of their friends go to or maintain multiple presences.

I also suspect that most Pownce users may well have already considered (and rejected) alternatives that were around (Twitter, Tumblr, FriendFeed) when they originally chose to sign up with Pownce which may be another positive factor in identi.ca’s favour.