Disclaimer: StatusNET is now part of GNUSocial, the below review is obsolete. Read our GNUSocial review here.
In a nutshell or The TL;DR
StatusNet is a full-featured self-hosted Twitter clone. But in order for it to be really useful as a replacement, it would need to be able to communicate with other instances, which currently it doesn’t.
What it does
Microblogging, made famous by Twitter, is the posting of small snippets of texts, sometimes with links, images or videos. The early Twitter called these bursts of text “status updates” (yes, Facebook did copy that).
Since then, microbloggin has gone far beyond mere status updates, but the name of one of the most popular open source, self-hosted alternatives to Twitter retained its name: StatusNet. Well, actually it used to be called Laconica, but they decided to rebrand in order to make clearer what their software is about.
What is it about? Well, that’s straight-forward: StatusNet is an open-source Twitter clone people can host themselves. The most prominent use of StatusNet is probably Identi.ca, which everyone can sign-up to and which is billed as Twitter’s open competitor. Unfortunately, though, it never really took off.
The good people at StatusNet have made it really very easy to set up your own service. First, download and unzip it from here. You’ll need a database, PHP and a few modules in order to have fancy things like, well, fancy links (think yourdomain.com/you instead of yourdomain.com/user.php/you as a URL for your profile). If you’re comfortable with an FTP or SSH program and know how to set up a database, you should be good to go. They have a pretty thriving community, which can help out with most questions, should you run into problems. As an aside: since it’s an open-source effort, and StatusNet is also offering paid solutions, you won’t be able to get official support for your private installation, if you’re not willing to pay for it. Which, considering you get their software for free, is a pretty fair deal.
Customization of StatusNet is possible and not too shabby. From custom URL-shortening to polls or Open-ID integration, StatusNet has them and a few more. However, a lot of them haven’t seen updates in a long time and I do get the feeling that there’s not a whole bunch of new extensions being made.
Now, here’s the question you might be asking: what good is a self-hosted microblogging service that nobody is using but me? And unfortunately, the question isn’t easily answered. While you can connect your Twitter account to your StatusNet installation, it doesn’t really make that much sense. You’re, after all, still depending on Twitter, so your followers there can see what you write. And, you still have to visit Twitter to see what your followers have been writing, unless they’ve come and joined you on your server.
Here, the problem of a service that depends on many users becomes apparent again. While it’s a great idea to have your own StatusNet installation, there really isn’t a way to actually connect all these various instances installed by other people in order for them to communicate with each other (the way Diaspora wants to do it). Which is a real shame, considering how relatively easy it is to set up StatusNet. Wouldn’t it be great if that could work? You’d own your data AND you could connect with all your other friends and contacts.
The upside to the whole thing, in case you’re wondering: you are totally in control of your little snippets of witty observations and it IS kinda cool to have your own microblogging-service.
StatusNet is freeware and open-source.