Geoffrey Meredith
Thoughts on Technology


My previous post about the Internet Operating System compared the Internet's structure and operation to a stand-alone computer.  In this post I want to take that another step further.

I have the feeling that the state of the Internet now is much like stand-alone computers were just before the introduction of the IBM PC in 1981.  A lot of the pieces of the PC revolution were there, but no one had quite put them all together.  What the PC did was put control of serious computing resources into the hands of individuals.  We are now waiting for the Internet analog to this revolution.  I think that will happen when people control their data own on the internet.

That data control is not just in the "Data Portability" vision of being able to copy data from one walled garden to the next, but in the ability to store your data in a single datastore of your choosing and that you control completely. You can then allow selective access to to your data by external services that you want to use.  I think that's S3 is the start of the kind of service where you could store data.  Not that S3 has the complete functionality required to support this model but it could be based on top of S3.  Having your own datastore is like being in control of the hard drive on your computer.  You load applications and tell those applications what data to work with.  In that same way, you could allow a web based service such as Adobe Photoshop Express, to access some photos in your datastore, do some online processing and after it's done, store the results back to your datastore.  You can already do this with your photos stored on Flickr and a couple of other photo sites.  Adobe's got the right idea but there is no open protocol for that would allow them to reach the photos on my own personal server.

In a similar vein, we have Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and many smaller players fighting over control of "the social graph".  The "right" way to handle this is to allow me to store and control my part of the social graph and then selectively allow other services to have access to that.  There would no longer be a need to give some new tool your account credentials to your GMail, Facebook, and other services.  Just point them at your datastore and tell your datastore what personal data that the service can have.

This model really is the holy grail social computing from a user's perspective.  It's deadly to a social aggregator's perspective (such as Facebook) as there isn't much left for them once they the user gets rescued from their lock-in.  I also see this as a significant component of the next version of the Internet Operating System.