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Getting The True GIST of Twitter Loves Open Source

Yes Twitter loves open source, but the force multiplier is that Twitter's love for open source drags the entire ecosystem of social media into loving open source too!

A few weeks back it was big news that “Twitter loves open source”. Complete with the page http://www.twitter.com/opensource, showing all of the open source tools and components that Twitter not only uses, but supports as well. Shortly thereafter word came of Twitter adopting the Facebook supported Cassandra project in place of MySQL.

So yes Twitter does love open source. But that is not the whole “Gist” of it. Twitter, Facebook and the rest of the social media giants have spawned large ecosystems of other companies that rely on platforms that Twitter and the like have become. By supporting open source and open standards with open APIs, Twitter has enabled other companies to interact with it. This makes the social media web that much deeper and better connected. It also drags these other companies into becoming lovers of open source as well (most of them already were open source fans anyway).

A perfect example of this is a company called Gist. Gist helps people with social media overload. "It connects your inbox to the web." If you want one place where you can see your friends tweets, facebook postings, blog posts, etc., Gist if for you. Oh yeah, it integrates into Outlook too. Gist is a great way of getting a handle on all the different places your friends are interacting and prioritizing that information so you can make sense of it.

Gist, according to its CTO Steve Newman, is and always has been a big supporter of open source anyway. Much of the tool set behind Gist is built on open source. However, integrating with Twitter, Gist has built on open source code that Twitter has made available. The resulting code work that Gist has done has also been released under an open source license and contributed back to the community.

Interestingly this code could be used by a Gist competitor. But Steve is not worried about that. It is the secret sauce of what drives the social media revolution. By contributing code back into the pot for the common good, the entire industry benefits. Sort of a pay it forward model. Without the openness of Twitter and the like though, Gist and many other companies would not be possible. But that goes to the heart of what Twitter is really about. It is more than just Twitter loves open source.

Speaking to Jean-Paul Cozzatti, Product Manager of Infrastructure and Storage at Twitter, he explained Twitters motto to me. It is “to do good”. I found this an interesting contrast to Google’s much ballyhooed motto of “do no evil”. Doing good sounds like the other side of the coin of doing no evil, but there is more to it. It is putting a much more positive spin on things. Doing good also results in good coming back to Twitter. The pay it forward model at work again.

There is another driver though that pushes social networking and social media towards open source. That is scalability. The sheer number of users involved in applications like Twitter and Facebook seems to drive open source adoption by these companies. In many ways it is unchartered territory supporting 10s of millions of users. Open source projects like Cassandra make for an “all hands on deck” approach that has resulted in solutions that scale to the necessary levels.

Yes, Twitter does love open source. But that love of open source extends to an entire solar system of programs, applications and companies that orbit around the stars of the social networking universe. It makes them love open source too!

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