Microsoft Validates Ushahidi, Invalidates Vine

Jon Gosier —  April 29, 2009 — 5 Comments

A million monkeys banging on a typewriter will inevitably string a few phrases together, two of those monkeys will likely type the same phrase as each other. It’s probability.

Sometimes people (groups, companies) just come up with similar ideas.

So I understand that Microsoft’s development team probably weren’t even aware of the location based crisis reporting tool, Ushahidi, and to innovate in the social networking space, they went to the next logical step…location based micro-messaging. If anything, they probably heard about the general idea at a press conference (or in a TED Video or something, maybe this little news network called Al Jeezera) and they decided they (being one of the world’s largest software companies) could reinvent the wheel and make it better with Vine. Nothing wrong with that.

vinebig.jpg 2911970955_6bbe9d3058_b-1.jpg

The really disappointing thing is that Microsoft, true to form, want to ‘own’ such a system. The difference between Microsoft Vine and Ushahidi is that with the former you have to wait for some execs in Redmond to crunch some numbers and authorize updates or new features. With Ushahidi, you’ve got a large amount Kenyan developers as well as other guys from around the world contributing to an open source platform that no one really owns, the company Ushahidi just supports and configures installations. The whole point of the software is to be decentralized so that it can be deployed beyond the scope of a few individuals or one company.

Why is that so interesting? Because I don’t quite get the motive. Is it some market potential? How in the world would Microsoft expect to begin to monetize such a service? It’s like trying to monetize 911 or the EBS. Maybe next they’ll make proprietary Air Raids next. Microsoft Air Raid 2009 Live Professional Service Pack 1.

Crisis reporting is something that wants to be free. It needs to be free, community owned, a service that just exists. No one should know where it comes from, it’s just there. I don’t really see what Microsoft locking down such a system ads to the company or the product. In this way, Jason Paczkowski of All Things D is right, Vine is the Zune of Social Networks, all the things that would make such a service cool (even useful) have been left out.

My point is, Microsoft can’t have it both ways. If they want to offer something like this to the world, the real utility is in the openness. I don’t need to pay a premium to know my mother’s house is on fire in Atlanta, Ga, I don’t want to see contextual ads about pacemakers when my grandma reports she’s having a heart attack.

Bottom-line, if they don’t plan to monetize it, then there’s no need for it to be proprietary. They’d offer the world much more if it wasn’t.

Jon Gosier


Founder of Apps4Africa, Appfrica, and D8A

5 responses to Microsoft Validates Ushahidi, Invalidates Vine


    I agree totally, it’s sad, and it would take more than an optimist to hope for Microsoft to make this open source.

    I would consider myself an optimist and I’ll dare to hope that it goes cross-platform at the very least. But I can’t lie. I’m pro-Ushahidi any day when it comes to geo-tagging and crisis-mapping. Let’s see what else they can get up to.


    Thanks for flagging this. You have to download a software to use the Vine? Wouldn't be better if it was all online via the website.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Misconceptions and Failed Attempts – Microsoft’s Strategy for Africa : - May 15, 2009

    […] Except… that the African platform Ushahidi, which is an Open Source Software development, is designed to do the same thing. The initiative started in Kenya in 2008. Since then, the application has been successfully used in a number of different cases and its recognition is growing. One of the founders, Jonathan Gosier, comments on the launch of Vine in his blog AppAfrica: […]

  2. Microsofts Vine konkurriert mit offener Plattform - onli blogging - May 15, 2009

    […] wecken dürfte. Die Offenheit ist ein Kernaspekt des Projekts. Entsprechend fällt dann auch die Kritik an Vine aus:How in the world would Microsoft expect to begin to monetize such a service? It’s like trying […]

  3. Microsoft vs the Open Source Community in Africa | White African - May 18, 2009

    […] Jon Gosier “There is nothing in Vine that you cannot already do with a combination of Ushahidi’s […]

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