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Open Web Initiative

April 4, 2007

This is a cross-post

Steve and I have been tossing about this idea for an Open Web for some time now.

What is Open Web?

Open Web is a collection of technologies and standards that enable individuals to disclose their identity, feeds, activities, friends, and social networks, while preserving their ownership over this information and enabling them to keep their privacy.

What is NOT Open Web?

Anything that is proprietary, locked in in format or provider is NOT Open Web.  Open Web is about open, extensible, and license free standards.

In short this is a collection of technologies and open standards that enable individuals to disclose their identity, feeds, activities, friends, and social networks, while preserving their ownership over this information and enabling them to keep their privacy.

The goals are to enable you to:

  1. Claim who you are without being locked into a proprietary stack (i.e. you own your identity)
  2. Reveal as much or as little about your identity as you like
  3. Associate feeds with your identity
  4. Associate other identities with your identity
  5. Claim membership of social networks, associations, groups, and other collective structures
  6. Act as a repository of your activities, attention, and content

This will all be built on existing, open standards. The following lists technologies that are being considered as building blocks for Open Web.

You can think of this as the nexus of your identity. You own it. You can take it with you in a simple XML file and anyone could write a client that will give you some very cool benefits based on this. I’ll not get into too much wand waving about what this will/can enable just yet, but just use your imagination for a moment. The social network becomes implicit to the Internet itself. No need for these walled garden social networks. Your identity isn’t being sprinkled about countless buckets in which you have no control. Content is mobile, Identity is mobile. Later we’ll talk about how behavior can be mobile too. The user is in control. Ok, enough wand waving for now.

I spoke with Elizabeth Churchill about this last month at Community 2.0. She’s brilliant. She immediately plucked from thin air an analogy about getting directions in Japan. Beware, I’ll likely get this partially wrong. In Japan it’s the case that directions are often given at different levels of granularity. So, when you get directions you get to the region, then you get regional directions, then you get local directions. etc. Applied to a person’s identity or content this is powerful stuff.

If you know of me you likely know I live in San Diego. If you have met me you know I live in downtown San Diego, maybe even that I live in Little Italy. If you came looking for me in Little Italy, because I’m pretty extroverted, you may find someone who could tell you I live on Kettner Blvd. But you’re not going to know my building our condo number unless I want you to know it or you shake down a good friend of mine. Unfortunately this is not currently the case on the Internet and we really need this.

We need to be able to own and protect our identities. Also the same is true for our content. For example, I don’t want everyone to have access to photos of my daughter. I want to be able to stipulate if you can view my content, how you can use, or reuse my content. All of this is especially prescient in light of the recent Kathy Sierra…uhhh….I don’t even know what to call it…incident. Here are the official statements, and here and here two posts from Sierra.

Steve and I have some ideas about how an Open Web can improve the current state of affairs, perhaps even solve some of these fundamental problems with online identity and our content. Some of the interesting side-effects will be baking a social network into the fabric of the Internet, making it possible to more easily layer Semantics, giving an infrastructure that would enable us to discover (and be discovered by) services, and as previously mentioned this will make content more mobile than ever, identity mobile for the first time, and even make behavior mobile. We’re not inventing a lot of this stuff. We’re just cobbling it together. Sound interesting? It damn sure should. Let’s start talking. It’s time for an Open Web and the technologies currently exist to make it a reality. We propose an Open Web Iniative realize this dream and we’re actively putting this together. We want help. We just launched a public wiki on the topic here. We’ll be fleshing this out as quickly as we can. It’s a busy month ahead for us, but this is too important for us to sit quietly any longer.

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