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:
Does the peered model look familiar? It should
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 Power.com 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.