Excellent chat today by Steve Gillmor, Chris Saad, Mary Hodder, Karoli Kuns, Robert W. Anderson, Matt Terenzio, and Bruce Lerner about data portability. They get to the nitty gritty about data portability, licensing, and social networks. Perhaps the best Gang I’ve ever heard.
So, Steve, if you’re listening, take this to the next level and talk about service portability.
It’s great to be able to move my data from service to service. Data portability is a good thing–and we absolutely must address the licensing and privacy issues that cloud that horizon. We also need to be able to move our services from provider to provider.
We can do that today with domain names that we own. We can move our blog or our website or our email from one hosting provider to another. The next step is to extend that to user-controlled services that expose data on our terms, under our control.
Data portability lets everyone pass data around so different service providers can do smart things with that data. Ok. But we learned long ago that software systems are more robust, more scalable, and more maintainable when rather than exposing the data, you expose functions that use that data.
I don’t want people who email me to have direct access to my email data file a server somewhere. That would be insane. I want them to have a well-defined, constrained, complete service interface for sending me email, no matter which service provider I choose. An interface that lets them reach me, but keeps them from reading and deleting other email.
Similarly, we need to take user data, place it in a personal data store (yea! portability!), then provide specific, well-defined access services to third party service providers, using that data, where the user controls those services completely: what services are available, who can access them, and even who the underlying service host is. This is how email works. How websites and blogs work. Next is to take this to user-centric services with complete, seamless data and service portability across the entire cloud.
We know that we need to be able to move our email service from one service provider to another. We know that we need to be able to move our websites to the host of our choice. We know that we need to be able to move our cell phone number from one carrier to another. And we know that we need to be able to change our attorney of record, our doctor, our insurance provider, etc.
We also need to be able to move our MySpace profile and Facebook page anywhere, anytime, on our terms… not just the friends list, but the entire visual gestalt. We need to be able to move our IM and our Twitter services. We need to be able to move our search history from one search provider to another. Pick any service you have come to depend on and understand that dependence creates the need for liberation, the need to get that service on your terms with the provider you prefer, under your complete control.
Without complete portability–services and data portability–innovative service providers will corner markets with data silos and service lock in. Only with transparent, seamless portability, can we leverage the open market and open network to drive to the most desirable and most useful services.
The user-centric identity community is way ahead of the curve on this one, and I’m looking forward to the data portability movement re-discovering the architectural realizations learned the hard way by OpenID, CardSpace, Liberty Alliance, and Higgins, just as the identity community begins to extend from the hard core technology built for identity and starts working towards the applications that will connect ultimately to real value for real users. And it has all been learned and continues to be built through collaborative efforts toward real portability and interoperability at the heart of the infrastructure. In particular, XDI has made great progress hashing out exactly the sort of licensed-based identity-authorized data access that Steve talked about in the podcast. ProjectVRM is driving a user-centric approach to commerce in this conversation and I encourage folks to join us all at the next IIW unconference and to keep an eye open for a VRM workshop sometime later in the year.