Forget Open Standards

Forget Open Standards…

Well, sort of. To date, the DataPortability project has often referred to its vision as “Open Standards based Data Portability”.

The problem, though, is that people don’t get why Open Standards are so important. Some even think that we’re advocating open standards for the sake of open standards. In truth, Open Standards are just a means to an end. It’s time the community started to focus on the end, rather than the means.

The end is not “Open Standards based Data Portability”. Rather it’s what I’m starting to call ‘Peered Data Portability’.

Peered Data Portability differs dramatically from what we have today from Facebook Connect. Here are some diagrams to explain:

FB Connect Version of data portability - Hub n Spoke

FB Connect Version of data portability - Hub n Spoke

The Future of Data Portability - Peered Nodes

The Future of Data Portability - Peered Nodes

Does the peered model look familiar? It should

The Internet is already a Peered environment

The Internet is already a Peered environment

In the Hub and Spoke model, a single node controls the transaction and facilitates data sync between participating 3rd parties. This is efficient and always the quickest and most commercially viable way to get the job done (at least for the central node).

The problem, however, is that it has a central point of control, failure and commercialization. A monopoly, or market confusion, is inevitable. At the very least this model leads to reduced innovation along the connections.

Can you imagine if there was only one Web server? One FTP server? One Email server? Companies like Google would have certainly never been allowed to exist. They might have been sued by the Acme Web Server company early in their life much like is being sued by Facebook today.

The peered approach, is much more analogues to the web itself. It lets a thousand flowers bloom as equal participants in an open ecosystem. It allows and incentivises innovation at all the nodes. It also means that the solution is not a commercial product, but rather part of the fabric of the web itself, much like HTTP is.

Sure, Open Standards may facilitate interoperable peering, but that’s just a technicality along a much bigger journey. So while Open Standards are important, they are certainly not the point. Standards come and go (and some stick). The peered, web-like nature of the Internet will outlive us all.

It’s time to move the conversation up the intellectual stack.

I look forward to the continued emergence of Peered Data Portability.

Note: This is a follow up to my ‘Forget Facebook’ post last year. I don’t mean to pick on Facebook, but their first mover status provides a clear counter-point.

5 comments to Forget Open Standards

  • [...] Saad wrote a good post on the DataPortability Project’s (DPP) blog about how the web works on a peering model. Something we do at the DPP is closely monitor the market’s evolution, and having done this [...]

  • Paul Trevithick

    Americans in particular are amazingly trusting of massive, centralized hubs like Facebook. Beyond the issues of scalability, reliability, and innovation/diversity that you quite rightly mention, I’m reminded of the old adage about absolute power corrupting absolutely. OTOH, to be fair to Facebook and the like, viable, distributed architectures and business models only starting to emerge.

  • [...] 12, 2009 I have just published a post about “Peered Data Portability” on the official DataPortability [...]

  • Alex

    The parallel with the internet architecture is quite good. The internet history has proved that hub and spoke doesn’t scale (the first pre-internet connections was a hub and spoke).

  • David Hobbs

    nThanks for the useful visual representation of Facebook Connect vs. peered data portability. In addition to the relationships between the entities on your graphs, the *size* of the different nodes is interesting as well (the fact that Facebook is this large central repository is relevant as well).n