Friday, August 20, 2010

Facebook Places and the Platform race

Facebook announcement of Places service is an important event in the Platform race. Facebook could have partnered with Foursquare or some other geospatial player(s) . Instead, Facebook is going for leverage strategy, aiming to build and control its own "wide platform".

Possible strategic response for Foursquare,  threatened by Facebook ambitions and lock of the "wider platform", is to integrate with a new,  "open" social platform such as Diaspora.  It would be a mistake for Foursquare to try to build its own social platform, unless they make it "open" and convince other major players like Zynga to integrate with it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My vision of the User Platform

In this post, I will communicate my vision of the User Platform.

The Platform is a future Internet user-centered semantic web service, around which the ecosystem of information space services is built. The information space is comprised of web, media, real life, augmented reality, and all other media in which humans, nature, and machines interact.

The Platform has five integrated components – User Platform, Groups Platform, Things Platform, Services Platform, and Content Platform.  

Picture 1. User Platform 

I will call the core service of the User Platform, servicing a specific user, a Platform Cell. It is indicated as the blue circle in the diagram. The Platform Cell is a human’s second brain in the information space that always works and never sleeps. The Platform makes sense of what is happening with the user and around the user, in real time. The User Platform creates user-related knowledge and uses that knowledge to communicate with the ecosystem of information space services.  Each instance of the Platform Cell:

- Monitors infospace activity by user and related to user using semantic methods
- Monitors user’s real life location, health state, activity, safety, and connectedness (“presentity” in IETF language)   
- Uses AI to analyze these data to produce meaning
- Negotiates terms and conditions of using services on user behalf, manages micro-payments and other value exchanges  
- Initiates, manages, and terminates services as requested by the user or by the Platform Cell on user behalf   
- Provides appropriate level of user information and knowledge to the services
- Provides services with communication and synchronization across access devices (PCs, mobile phones, PDAs, TV sets, cars, body implants, smart homes, and many others).
- Interacts with relevant Group Platform Cells and Things Platform Cells   
- Supports proactive search for new opportunities – services, content, people, groups, and things
- Proactively protects user security, protects privacy, and manages aliases. Cooperates with specialized security and privacy services.
- Manages direct Cell to Cell (C2C) communications

The Platform will enable macro services that generate value across different Cells. The platform can serve as powerful commerce and marketing tool, generating customer alliances and target groups.  The Platform can leverage knowledge of users with similar interests to generate opportunities for individuals. My vision is that this aggregated data is not generated by direct access to the user data – rather, it is an outcome of negotiation among Platform Cells and macro services, fully taking into consideration implicit and explicit user preferences in terms of security and privacy.

A group of core service that I call a Wide Platform, is built immediately around the Platform Cell. Those services, such as the universal search, social networks, medical services, free agent platform, media content delivery services, form a wider platform around the user.  A rich ecosystem of third-party and 4-party services forms around this wider platform.

Wide Platform services now become much “smarter”. They need less personal involvement by user, can understand and anticipate her needs better. I whole new ecosystem of free agent services will develop around free agent platform, which is the part of the Wide Platform.

Universal search will benefit from understanding of user context and background. Social networks will take into consideration user context to provide just the right amount of relevant information. Medical services will monitor user health and inform the health care providers about possible health problems. Media content will rely on micro-negotiations and micro-payments to smoothly deliver highly relevant news and entertainment to viewers.

In later posts, I will address several important considerations. My vision of the Platform is that it will be designed to serve the user’s and groups’ interest. Alternative designs, putting corporate or government interest in front are possible. The Platform may be designed by business, free and open software group, or government – or some combination of those. I will also discuss whether technologically the data in the Platform should be stored centrally, locally, or distributed across the Web.

I will illustrate how the Platform architecture works below.

One day in life of Bridget, 25 years old professional working for a multinational company in San-Francisco.  


5:00     Platform Cell learns from Bridget’s car GPS service that due to car accident, a 30 minute delay on the route to work is expected. Platform Cell knows that Bridget has a meeting in the office at 9:00, so it adjusts the alarm clock and instructs the coffee machine accordingly. It also renegotiates Bridget\s car pull arrangement.

7:30     Bridget is watching the news over breakfast. The Internet TV company negotiated with the Media Service and Platform Cell what news are interesting for Bridget, and also agreed what relevant ads to show. Platform Cell agreed to pay $3 for premium news and received $4 for showing the ads via Micro Payment Service.  Meanwhile, Bridget is not bothered about these details; all she views is the customized news and ads.

7:50    The Platform Cell starts Bridget’s car and instructs it to turn on the heating – it learned from the home weather station that it’s a cold day outside.

8:00    Bridget is driving to work. Platform Cell requests the car radio to read an urgent email message relevant to 9:00 meeting.

9:05     Bridget is in the meeting, getting introductions to a team group of foreign partners. Her mobile phone tags names and business cards to faces and asks Platform Cell to find relevant information on the meting participants. Platform Cell reminds Bridget, via mobile phone, that she briefly met one of the participants 2 years ago. Platform also informs her that, despite his seemingly low formal position, he appears to be a key decision maker in this group. 

10:30  Bridget is checking her emails – The Platform Cell already helped the email service sort the emails. It has already answered to some routine requests on Bridget’s behalf. The Platform Cell worked with Advanced Email Service to highlight important business opportunities, urgent issues, and potential risks. Each email links to several key issues

11:00   Bridget is searching the web for additional information on new technology mentioned in today’s meeting. Platform Cell helps the search service get the most relevant results. It also contacts Bridget’s colleague’s Platform Cells and learns that one of the colleagues is an expert on this technology.

12:00   Bridget hits the gym for a half-hour training. Fitness Service learned from Platfom Cell that Bridget had a tennis match yesterday and woke up earlier than normal today, so it proposes a lighter exercise program.

12:40   As Bridget takes the elevator to the cafeteria, she orders her meals on her mobile phone. Her Diet Service works with Platfrom Cell to make the best selection.

14:40   Platform Cell notices suspicious activity with Bridget’s credit card – it was used to purchase jewelry in a store where Bridget can’t be at that moment. Platform Cell immediately requests Bridget’s bank to block the credit card and cancels the transaction. It also files report with police.   

16:00   Platform Cell, working with Universal Search Service, found a new professional blog that would be of interest to Bridget. It added the blog to the “follow” list.  

19:00  Bridget is at shopping mall. As she wonders about, Platform Cell is reviewing the sales offer she is receiving from the stores, negotiates the discounts, and sends a few interesting once to her mobile. Platform Cell knows that Bridget is in the market for a new tennis racket, so it cooperated globally with other shoppers to get a nice offer. Platfrom Cell also learns from Geospatial Service that a few friends are also in the shopping mall, so the Platform Cell shows their location on the store map in the mobile phone.

21:30   Bridget is driving home. Platform Cell helps the car radio choose music that best fits Bridget’s mood for the day.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

As the industry moves towards the Platform, the battle for control of private data between users, governments and vendors intensifies. 
Emirati officials have declared BlackBerry smartphones a potential threat to national security because users' data is stored overseas, where local laws don't apply and where analysts say it could be harder for authorities to monitor.

Friday, July 23, 2010

HP in the Platform race?

They want to be Apple. They want be the makers of high-quality consumer gadgets all connected by way of a digital ecosystem. An ecosystem they own and operate. One tied together by webOS.

Monday, July 19, 2010

what is the platform - my latest definition

The Platform is a core service of the future Internet that links individuals, groups, things, content, and services to enable semantically connected global cloud computing ecosystem.

Platform race update

David Siegel is starting up his own Platform company!

Friday, July 2, 2010

3rd Future Internet Symposium 2010 - Call for Papers

Thus Internet applications have so far been developed mainly for fitting to specific networks. Now itís time for a change. Networks should be developed for applications. The universe of these networks might be considered as the Future Internet. The future network ecosystem will be supported by a consolidated, preferably single, platform. This platform needs to include support for services, things and content on both network and application layer. The FI ecosystem has to be sustainable, meaning that applications are supported efficiently, i.e. consuming a minimal amount of required resources, e.g. capacity, electricity, etc., while providing dedicated security and sufficient performance for the applications throughout their lifetime.

 3rd Future Internet Symposium 2010 - Call for Papers

Friday, June 25, 2010

Diaspora Project - the user-controlled Platform?

I first read about Diaspora project in the David Notik's blog entry.  It's a student project attempting to build an open-source social networking platform. Diaspora will let users fully control and manage their own information.  Initially, it started as a reaction to Facebook privacy concerns.

What Diaspora is doing is essentially an attempt to build some key components of the Platform - a simple version of the Platform Cell (user profile) and the social network. Diaspora may well become successful in building an open movement alternative to Facebook. However,  it will not be able to create the Platform. The Platform is a core operating system of the internet, it should provide APIs to an array of core services, such as web browsers, storage, media content distributions systems, healthcare information management,  geo-social networks, video conferencing, autonomous agent services, marketing service, payment and micropayment services. It should also provide APIs for tools that synchronize across these different services and across access devices.  The Platform should be flexible and future-proof. Creating the Platform is a software engineering challenge that requires awesome resources and expertise.

Strategically, Diaspora is working towards the end user-controlled vision of the Platform, as opposed to the corporate-controlled vision and the government-controlled vision. Diaspora or a similar project could be that seed that eventually would grow into the massive global  user-centric Platform.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

O'Reilly blogs about the Platform!

Tim O'Reilly is a visionary who has been talking about the Platform for years. He's calling it an Internet Operating System. He talks about the Platform and reviews the race - Tim calls it "the great game".

This is the crux of my argument about the internet operating system. We are once again approaching the point at which the Faustian bargain will be made: simply use our facilities, and the complexity will go away. And much as happened during the 1980s, there is more than one company making that promise. We're entering a modern version of "the Great Game", the rivalry to control the narrow passes to the promised future of computing. (John Battelle calls them "points of control".) This rivalry is seen most acutely in mobile applications that rely on internet services as back-ends. As Nick Bilton of the New York Times described it in a recent article comparing the Google Nexus One and the iPhone:

Self-adapting applications for Mobile Users In ubiquitous Computing environments

The MUSIC (Self-adapting applications for Mobile Users In ubiquitous Computing environments) project is an EU sponsored effort to engineer something very relevant to the Platform. MUSIC is building middle-ware that enables development of mobile applications across different mobile vendors and service providers (any network/any device concept). The project has created software design methodology and middleware to enable creation of self-adapting mobile applications.

Something like MUSIC will be an essential component of the Platform. However, MUSIC itself is unlikely to evolve into the Platform. It is mostly a software-development methodology rather than a core Web service.

MUSIC project would need to grow commercial and marketing muscle to penetrate the market. I would start with renaming the project - it's difficult to search for it on the internet.

The user-centric approach of the MUSIC project is conceptually aligned with the Platform. However, my understanding is that the project assumes that the user profiles are hosted with the service providers, which is an old business model that maintains the balcanization of the information space. The Platform concept assumes that the user profiles are hosted as the Platform Cells centrally within the web hosted Platform. The services are built around the Platfrom Cells independent of the ISPs.

This paper provides a good technological overview of the MUSIC.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Google's Micropayment System - towards micro-negotiations using the Platform

Google is planning to launch a micropayment service Newspass that will provide customers with a unified pay as you go mechanism for web media, acccording to La Repubblica. Ultimately, a smart micropayment service will be the key component of the Platform. Whenever someone clicks on a link, the Platform would instantly provide "micro-negotiations" between the user's Platform Cell and the web site, negotiating the payment, different discounts based on the customer's marketing profile within the Platform, and other special offers. In most cases, the negotiations will be handled automatically, the user will only need to confirm his agreement in non-standard situations such as excessively high price, additional binding conditions, and special offers.

The same micro-negotiations mechanism coordinated across real life and the Web will be facilitated by the Platform for the mobile phone users. It would help customers negotiate discounts at restaurants they are passing buy, pay for bus transit, or get special offers from the fashion outlets: all done mostly automatically.

Apparently, with Newspass service, Google is addressing the tactical problem of its falling market share in news search. Strategically, the service will help revive the struggling news industry. On yet another strategic level, the importance of Newspass for Google is that it's a step towards "micro-negotiations" component of the Platform.

Friday, June 18, 2010

SOaaS and the big race for the Platform

This paper from the Future Internet 2nd Usage Area Workshop hosted by the EFII on the 9th of June 2010 at Madrid provides excellent summary of possible Platform architecture.

SOaaS (Solution-as-a-Service) is described as a cloud computing paradigm that envisions delivering cloud-based solutions instead of ‘software’. SOaaS focuses real-world business and end- user needs and delivers solutions that are user-centric (not software centric), collaborative (not closed), truly personalised (not template based) and manage-free (not ‘install and continuously update’).

This is one more voice calling for the Platform to be a public utility. Every person (user, citizen) would get an individual space within the Platform, and the services will be build around each user. Since the Platform will be truly global, it will be outside of authority of the national governments, therefore it's difficult to say who will be ultimately responsible for governing it. Ultimately, this model calls for the citizens controlling the Platform and their own data in the platform.

The competing vision is that the Platform will emerge as a result of one of the private companies, or alliance of private companies, locking in the market. At the moment, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and the score of other companies are competing for control of the emerging Platform. The recent Facebook-Yahoo agreement is just the taste of things to come. It is also possible that a well-funded start-up company will go for the throat and attempt to build the Platform from scratch, in a clean slate effort.

The paper states that ...The current industrial paradigm for delivering an ‘internet of services‘ using cloud computing is based on variations of the ‘SPI Model’ i.e. Software, Platform or Infrastructure - as a Service, respectively. However, the industrial landscape based on this model has certain inherent limitations such as single ‘SaaS vendor’ lock-in, and limited end-consumer service composability, customisability and flexibility.

Certainly, the industry understands the limitations and problems with single vendor lock-up. The heated discussion is ongoing whether one company can actually lock-up the cloud computing market. However, I think the right question to ask is more narrow: whether one company can lock up the Platform. It looks to me that its highly probable. At the moment, the strongest contender is Google, followed (and lagging far behind) by Microsoft, Facebook and Apple. I will later write a post reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of these companies in the big race.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Firefox Sync

Mozilla announced yesterday that its Firefox Sync will be integrated in the Firefox 4 browser.

Sync will be an integrated (opt-in, of course) feature of Firefox 4. It makes your bookmarks, history, Awesome Bar intelligence, passwords, form-fill data and open tabs accessible from Firefox running on other computers and mobile phones.

Mozilla is taking a step in strategically right direction - this is the step towards the Platform. Mozilla senses that the mobile access devices have become mature enough to allow this to happen. The race is on!

And unlike cloud services that use your data to track your travels throughout the Web for ad targeting or other purposes, Firefox Sync encrypts all of your data before sending it to the server

Mozilla should not shy away from advertising - this is where the money is. The winning Platform will allow users to control how they are advertised to and to get their share of ad revenues.

The leading players - Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter - are all building the components of the emerging Platform. What Mozilla is establishing with Firefox Sync is one of the essential elements of the Platform.
Rajnish Sharma (Systems Officer, UPTEC Computer Consultancy) believes that, "The next generation of the Web is Web 3.0, will make tasks like your search faster and easier. Instead of multiple searches, you might type a complex sentence or two in your Web 3.0 browser, and the Web will do the rest. The browser will analyze your response, search the Internet for all possible answers, and then organize the results for you. The Web 3.0 browser will act like a personal assistant. As you search the Web, the browser learns what you are interested in. The more you use the Web, the more your browser learns about you and the less specific you'll need to be with your questions. Eventually you might be able to ask your browser open questions like 'where should I go for lunch?' Your browser would consult its records of what you like and dislike, take into account your current location and then suggest a list of restaurants." - Quoted from wikipedia,

This functionality will not be with the browser, but with the Platform - the emerging core service of the new web that would collect and make sense of the information about the users, regardless of the access device and media - be it mobile phone, notebook, or even real live conversation. My blog is dedicated to the emerging Platform, to the near future of the Internet.