Micro-Messaging – Data Interchange Standards and Track

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I’ve been hard at work over the past week. Having your own company which you are attempting to bootstrap in this economy and sponsoring an academic project with ASU Polytechnic and – in my spare time – working on the challenges of real-time information discovery and participation is exhausting. Never-mind the two children under 6.

I’ve listened to what everyone has had to say regarding the “fire-hose” – or as I tend to refer to it – the question of trackable scope. Karoli took the time to write a very persuasive and passionate post – which you can read here. While we still may not agree weather or not the “fire-hose” is required to make track – I think we understand each other’s point of view. We agree on what is important – if not in which order and why. That is enough for me.

Apparently I was mentioned on the Gillmor Gang on 11/11/2008 – I’ve included the podcast below:

PodCast courtesy of The Gillmor Gang

icon for podpress Standard Podcast [60:12m] Download (746)

The discussion turns to track for the last half or so of the hour. After sitting with my latte this morning and listening (to some parts more than once) I believe I have a clearer understanding of Steve Gillmor’s perspective on the issue.

I completely agree with Steve that establishing a base mechanism for data interchange between real-time/near real-time social media services is going to be critical to the ultimate value delivered. As I’ve discussed on identi.ca we need a real-time data “bus” which moves data in real time from publishers to subscribers. Much the same way an electrical bus moves electricity from generators to consumers. At some point that bus – when widely adopted – will become a standard.

I’ll be posting more about the bus early next week.

I believe – and I am quite certain history bears this out – that standards develop because they benefit the services that implement them. In most cases this is because the interchange of data in some structured way is required to unlock the full value of a particular service or solution. We’ve seen this evolution in the past – email is an excellent example. Prior to SMTP every major producer of email systems had a “standard” for routing email between users. SMTP became dominant because it became more valuable to have email that could be exchanged with anyone than to have email without that capability. As a matter of fact it became a deal breaker if you couldn’t send email to anyone.

A counter example can be found in the world of Instant Messaging. After nearly 10 years there is no dominant standard. Each network implements it’s own standard and perhaps bridges messages to other standards. AIM uses OSCAR, GTalk uses XMPP, MSN uses SIP/SIMPLE. You want them all – you need a clever developer who creates a client that can talk to all 3.

There are many reasons that these standards either emerge or fail to emerge. But I’m fairly certain that it has rarely been the case that the standard was implemented because a small, vocal community of users insisted on it. I am very certain that the majority of standards become dominant is because there is a business imperative which makes using a standard more valuable than not.

Call me cynical – but that is how the world works. The question isn’t should there be a widely implemented standard for real-time micro-messaging, the question is what is the win-win? What is the business imperative that will drive widespread adoption? Specifically – how does it benefit Twitter to publish everything to the real-time messaging bus?

My contention is – as I’ve said before:

When compelling and broadly adopted services exist, which demand real-time un-scoped access to multiple underlying services, the individual services will have no choice but to “open their kimono” or face massive user defection.

The key part of that statement is “broadly adopted services exist“. My opinion is that we have to focus on the value proposition. What are the problems being solved and why are the valuable to users?

There are many – and some can be solved today (and as Karoli knows – some that can’t) – without the fire-hose. If I did not believe that to be true I wouldn’t be attempting to solve them. Will they be imperfect? Yes – but the goal isn’t perfection on day one – it is making a situation incrementally better by solving the important problems facing the user.

FriendFeed offers an interesting case – since they base their business model on being an aggregator. And, at least in theory, aggregation is one way to establish a real-time messaging bus and standard. It, however, requires not a network of peers but a single massive aggregator serving as the gateway/hub for access to information.

What I know – with complete certainty – is that the marketplace has ways of working these types of issues out. There will be a winner (or winners). They may or may not be the best technical solution. The real-time micro-messaging bus will be created to support the solutions that gain traction in the market. The solutions will not constrain themselves to 140 characters or any other standard which impedes the ability to solve important problems.

In short – until we hash out the types of services and how they deliver value AND the business imperative which drives a broadly implemented standard… there will be no standard (beyond paper standards).

So I’m going back to work creating value and solving important problems using the power of real-time (or near real-time) information discovery and participation… you in?

12 thoughts on “Micro-Messaging – Data Interchange Standards and Track

  1. I found your example of IM to be a particularly compelling reason for the developer community to really listen to that small vocal group of people. Imagine it — rather than having to build workarounds, you could be building solutions that cross the clouds and bring amazing value to people.Believe me, I completely understand the challenge of doing something while managing a family, career and life. In this case, however, I think it becomes absolutely critical that there *is* a standard before development happens around it, particularly for the individual developer. If not, you will have a company like Microsoft or Google setting their own standards, which may benefit them but not the user or developer community as a whole.

    Like

  2. I think the developer community is in agreement – the question is how do you get the established players to agree (i.e., twitter/friendfeed/yammer/etc)?IMHO IM never got on a common standard because there was no compelling business imperative for them to do so. Same business drivers that make Cell providers lock devices and subscribers to their network via contracts. Crossing that gap – why is it in Twitter's best interests to open up? – will drive the creation of a widely implemented standards.

    Like

  3. Twitter need to open up because they control the space right now and have the most ability to define the standard in a way that most benefits them. Right now, they're the ones with the users, but one look at friendster's history should give them a soberiing moment or two, particularly with Microsoft aggressively entering the social networking space with open products.

    Like

  4. On the question of getting the players to agree, they need to understand that it's in their own best interests. Silos are dead. Even Microsoft gets that. Twitter will be irrelevant if they don't open the silo. They're certainly free to develop a viable business model, but siloing the data will be their downfall. Particularly when it's MY data they're siloing.

    Like

  5. I found your example of IM to be a particularly compelling reason for the developer community to really listen to that small vocal group of people. Imagine it — rather than having to build workarounds, you could be building solutions that cross the clouds and bring amazing value to people, based on a standard that was set *in advance*, based on what we know about the value of the data in the cloud.Believe me, I completely understand the challenge of doing something while managing a family, career and life. In this case, however, I think it becomes absolutely critical that there *is* a standard before development happens around it, particularly for the individual developer. If not, you will have a company like Microsoft or Google setting their own standards, which may benefit them but not the user or developer community as a whole.

    Like

    1. I think the developer community is in agreement – the question is how do you get the established players to agree (i.e., twitter/friendfeed/yammer/etc)?IMHO IM never got on a common standard because there was no compelling business imperative for them to do so. Same business drivers that make Cell providers lock devices and subscribers to their network via contracts. Crossing that gap – why is it in Twitter's best interests to open up? – will drive the creation of a widely implemented standards.

      Like

      1. Twitter needs to open up because they control the space right now and have the most ability to define the standard in a way that most benefits them. Right now, they're the ones with the users, but one look at friendster's history should give them a soberiing moment or two, particularly with Microsoft aggressively entering the social networking space with open products.

        Like

      2. On the question of getting the players to agree, they need to understand that it's in their own best interests. Silos are dead. Even Microsoft gets that. Twitter will be irrelevant if they don't open the silo. They're certainly free to develop a viable business model, but siloing the data will be their downfall. Particularly when it's MY data they're siloing.

        Like

  6. I found your example of IM to be a particularly compelling reason for the developer community to really listen to that small vocal group of people. Imagine it — rather than having to build workarounds, you could be building solutions that cross the clouds and bring amazing value to people, based on a standard that was set *in advance*, based on what we know about the value of the data in the cloud.Believe me, I completely understand the challenge of doing something while managing a family, career and life. In this case, however, I think it becomes absolutely critical that there *is* a standard before development happens around it, particularly for the individual developer. If not, you will have a company like Microsoft or Google setting their own standards, which may benefit them but not the user or developer community as a whole.

    Like

  7. I think the developer community is in agreement – the question is how do you get the established players to agree (i.e., twitter/friendfeed/yammer/etc)?IMHO IM never got on a common standard because there was no compelling business imperative for them to do so. Same business drivers that make Cell providers lock devices and subscribers to their network via contracts. Crossing that gap – why is it in Twitter's best interests to open up? – will drive the creation of a widely implemented standards.

    Like

  8. Twitter needs to open up because they control the space right now and have the most ability to define the standard in a way that most benefits them. Right now, they're the ones with the users, but one look at friendster's history should give them a soberiing moment or two, particularly with Microsoft aggressively entering the social networking space with open products.

    Like

  9. On the question of getting the players to agree, they need to understand that it's in their own best interests. Silos are dead. Even Microsoft gets that. Twitter will be irrelevant if they don't open the silo. They're certainly free to develop a viable business model, but siloing the data will be their downfall. Particularly when it's MY data they're siloing.

    Like

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