I'm a big fan of both Marc Canter (right) and Joi Ito . (NOTE: The picture, by Dan Farber of News.Com (and ZDNet fame), was taken off Marc's blog.)
They're both brilliant. They're both A-list bloggers. They're both rich. I've known both for about two decades.
But I think Marc has a vital Clue Joi has missed, about one of the most important trends of our time, the rise of the open source business process.
Here's why I think that.
Joi has put a lot of money into SixApart, which runs Movable Type, which powers this blog. It's good stuff. But it's being left behind because it is, at heart, proprietary. It doesn't interconnect with other software. It isn't modular, scalable, and it can only be improved by the SixApart team.
In other words, it doesn't take advantage of the open source business process, and thus there are whole new worlds it hasn't been able to scale into. It's not a Community Network Service (like Drupal), and it's not a social networking system (like MySpace).
Marc, on the other hand, has just released GoingOn. It's a new engine for digital communities, like MySpace. He launched with Tony Perkins, who will use the system as the new heart of his AlwaysOn network (no relation to my wireless network application idea of the same title).
Marc calls GoingOn an Identity Hub, something to which other identity systems can connect. (It's interoperable with Sxip Networks, for instance.)
But Marc also understands that his stuff can't be the be-all and end-all. Let him explain it:
The GoingOn network can CONNECT to other existing networks, not just HOST networks. Our APIs and schemas will be completely open and anyone can use them to interconnect social networks together. Not just to our network. Any network to any network.
The quote I took that from was part of a rant Marc wrote against one reporter, who failed to grasp what Marc was saying at his initial demo. (I scrubbed out the bile and kept the liver.) But here's the key bit:
Open ain't just a word, it's a bunch of specs and standards that exist or will exist - real soon now.
The open source business process isn't just about code, either. Licensing plays a role. Alliances play a role. And a key is giving everyone in the value chain the opportunity to profit from the result. Marc's absolutely right about MySpace.
Can Joi still learn from all this, and adapt to it? I think he can. Will he? Maybe. At SixApart? Don't know. Heck, I don't know whether Marc can "ride the tiger" of this business model, either. It's all new, and we're all naifs here.
But open source is a moving target. It's not just about the software. It's not just about the licenses. It is, at its core, a business process, in which lots of companies can share the workload, and everyone can gain the benefits that are important to them.
Good job, Marc. See you down the road.