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What’s the Sense in Shutting Pownce?

Six Apart will acquire technical expertise but lose a dedicated community.
December 2, 2008

The micro-blogosphere is abuzz with news that Twitter rival Pownce is to shut down for good on December 15. This was the first decision taken by new owners Six Apart, which acquired the company yesterday.

The fact that the new owners are making virtually no effort to hang onto the Pownce community suggests that they see no business sense in running a standalone micro-blogging service. Undoubtedly, Six Apart, which runs the blogging services Moveable Type, TypePad and Vox, only wanted Pownce for its software and expertise.

Pownce’s blog post announcement is full of hunky-dory acquisition language, but it’s a thin veil for utterly abandoning the service’s users:

“We’re bittersweet about shutting down the service but we believe we’ll come back with something much better in 2009. We love the Pownce community and we will miss you all … Since we’d like for you to have access to all your Pownce messages, we’ve added an export function. Visit pownce.com/settings/export/ to generate your export file. You can then import your posts to other blogging services such as Vox, TypePad, or WordPress.”

But why throw away an engaged community? The offer to export posts to blogging services seems almost insulting. Micro-blogging and blogging are very distinct for me, and the offered export file is nothing more than a data dump. This blog post makes a good point: Even Google, which was widely criticized for buying Jaiku and then leaving it languishing, didn’t completely close the service down. What are the chances that, after effectively being evicted from Pownce and handed their posts in a suitcase, any users will come back in 2009 to see what new tool the Pownce team has built?

Whatever the logic, it could be good news for other micro-blogging services. Several are already scrambling to welcome Pownce cast-offs. I first heard about the closing of Pownce on Identi.ca, an open-source microblogging service that I use. Within moments of the Pownce announcement, founder Evan Prodromou put up a blog post promising to build tools to let Pownce users import their posts into Identi.ca, and also to add support for Pownce developers, by the end of the week.

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