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.