Realtime goes primetime

Friendfeed’s march toward realtime functionality is already seeing some switching from focus on as the service most likely to dent Twitter’s rule of the micromessagesphere. One star developer, Dustin Sallings is now moving forward with a new XMPP service even as Gnip announces it’s abandoning XMPP services because of problems with servers consuming its often promised but never arriving firehose feed of Twitter public messages.

Sallings and his co-developer Ken Sheppardson appear to have tired of waiting for Twitter to provide access that would allow third parties to deliver realtime track services instead of the 15-minute delayed TwitterSpy which sucks indirectly off the Summize Twitter search output. Twitter recently took IM off their fix list, and Gnip reported no response to requests from multiple developers for XMPP permission.

Now Sallings and Sheppardson are reaching into Friendfeed’s realtime feed and providing Jabber (XMPP) access to and from individual comments. A two-letter naming convention lets you reply directly to comments of those you subscribe to in Friendfeed from your Gtalk or Gchat window. One immediate benefit: Gmail archives the chats, eliminating the 100 message limit Friendfeed currently employs on realtime feeds.

Sallings already provides track services for and other instances of its parent Laconica project. There a re several paths to adding track to enjit, either by constraining the search cloud to those who join the enjit service, or by getting Friendfeed to provide wider access to the firehose. While Friendfeed has not specifically confirmed the timing of its own XMPP output, they have certainly indicated they are working on it. But more importantly, Friendfeed seems interested in carefully building out its feature set via APIs rather than walling the whole container off via business decisions.

Yesterday’s Salesforce partnering with Facebook, along with a similar two-step with Amazon Web Services, indicates the speed with which not only startups and skunkwork projects can achieve velocity but major players as well. At the post-keynote Q & A with Marc Benioff, the Salesforce CEO beat back talk of adding Microsoft Azure to the list of services that can hook directly into the development model. But eventually Benioff had to concur that it will be up to developers to decide what components, gadgets, runtimes, and Web services will be aggregated.

A direct reply mechanism of the type demonstrated by enjit levels the playing field for Friendfeed, making it compatible with Twitter functionality while taking advantage of Friendfeed’s ability to aggregate other messaging services and orchestrating them. Last week saw a new Friendfeed feature that lets users bridge comments out to Twitter, moving a big step forward to putting Friendfeed in the dominant position at the head of the chain, making Twitter a client of Friendfeed and encouraging production of a bridge to other services such as to round out the tail of the micromessaging channel.

enjit’s two-letter reply scheme can certainly be extended to encode not just the message but the originating service. This is the holy grail, where smart clients can handle cross-platform handoffs and manage name collisions and the intricacies of direct messaging. And with Microsoft Live Mesh entering beta, its significant resources and Silverlight integration suggest rich clients that at a minimum make possible offline synchronization and multimedia consoles much like the BBC application shown at the PDC.

What’s truly disruptive is the degree to which developers can wire together these realtime apps across platforms, from Google with its gadget lab tool that allows injecting services into the Gmail console to Facebook’s social graph to Friendfeed’s aggregation router to Mesh’s device caching and multimedia rendering engine. Twitter may be paying the price for ignoring the free range developers who will endow this componentized architecture with credibility and IT investment.