Corante

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Dana Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist for over 25 years and has covered the online world professionally since 1985. He founded the "Interactive Age Daily" for CMP Media, and has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age, and dozens of other publications over the years.
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Moore’s Law defines the history of technology. It held that the number of circuits etched on a given piece of silicon could double every 18 months as far as its author, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, could see. Moore’s Law has spawned constant revolutions since then, not just in computing but in communications, in science, in a host of areas. Moore’s Law applies to radios, and to optical fiber, but there are some areas where it doesn’t apply. In this blog we’ll take a daily look at new implications of Moore’s Law in real time, as it rolls forward to create our future.
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July 23, 2005

Marc Canter's Clue

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

marc cantor closeup.jpgI'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.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Always On | B2B | Business Models | Business Strategy | Futurism | Internet | Investment | Software | computer interfaces | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising


COMMENTS

1. Marc Canter on July 24, 2005 01:25 AM writes...

Thanks dude

I'll post my reactions and corrections to this article - as well. But hopefully the bile spewing will be at a minimum (if at ALL!)

LOVE YOUR BLOG - btw.

- marc

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2. dfarber on July 24, 2005 02:58 PM writes...

No picture credit?

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3. Anil on July 24, 2005 07:00 PM writes...

Interesting points, Dana. I'd disagree with some of your assessments, though. Part of it might be your focus on Movable Type at the expense of the other strong legs of our product offerings.

First, and most obviously, we've got the LiveJournal team on board here now, and the LiveJournal community connecting to our offerings. The entire LiveJournal platform is open source (GPLed) and the infrastructure portions such as memcached and perlbal help power some other key parts of open source and community infrastructure, ranging from Slashdot to Wikipedia to Friendster and more.

If you'll look at any of the popular applications built on social networking platforms, like Flickr or MySpace, you'll undoubtedly see the influence of LiveJournal's having pioneered this area over five years ago.

And our commitment to open source isn't just on the LiveJournal platform. Key components of both Movable Type and TypePad, as well as key infrastructure components used to connect with these and other systems, are open sourced. From our implementations of Atom to FOAF to SOAP, we've released them all as completely free open source components, and we eat our own dog food by building on top of them in the applications and platforms we ship.

This isn't a new thing; TrackBack has been adopted by hundreds of thousands of sites in just a few years by being extremely open and implemented in code that was released with a very liberal license.

And I'm glad you brought up identity. Our LiveJournal team led an effort that's had contributions by our TypePad and Movable Type team, as well as lots of independent developers, to create OpenID. It's a simple, completely free and open, protocol for using your web address as your identity. We've shipped reference implementations, are providing code to connect it to our own platforms, and have completely documented the format.

More importantly, we're *shipping* the damn thing. It's built into LiveJournal already. It'll be part of our TypeKey platform in about a week. That means 10 million people will have OpenID identities, at no cost to them, and anyone who wants to accept those identities can implement support with the code we provide for free. If they want to build on top of it or improve it, there's an active community already, and if they want to create their own identity server using it, we'll help them do it.

Openness isn't just about buzzword compliance or flashiness, it's also about building sustainable, responsible business models to keep paying for development after the initial novelty has worn off and casual developers have found something new. We support the entire ecosystem, not just around our tools and protocols, but on the platforms we build on, too, with our team members committing changes to MySQL and Firefox and other essential parts of the software stack.

Finally, you say about Movable Type, "It doesn't interconnect with other software. It isn't modular, scalable, and it can only be improved by the SixApart team." This is demonstrably false. We've got better support for open standards than almost any blog platform out there, if you consider the wide range of databases (especially open source databases) and operating systems we build on top of. That's not to mention being the first platform to commit to web standards, and being unequivocal in our support of emerging standards like Atom. We've created a powerful plugin architecture that's spawned hundreds of clever innovations, as well as a growing number of people building careers on top of the platform. And our own plugins have been released as open source, to provide an easy base to build on top of for new development.

At the end of the day, any community-based effort, and especially open source efforts, relies on communication. There's no question we could do more to "sell" our open source efforts, but when it comes to communicating with real users and understanding their needs, I'd gladly put our record at Six Apart up against anyone's in the world.

So, you say, "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."

I'd go back to the start of Six Apart, with Ben and Mena's vision of being professional about what they do, serious in their commitment to it, and open about how they do it. That vision wasn't just good enough (and open enough) to build our company, it's helped build the entire social software industry. Joi certainly understood that early on, and the results of that have become apparent over time. I think our long-held (and still growing) commitment not just to open source code, but to sustaining open development with a solid business background, will be extremely evident in the months to come, if all the evidence above isn't enough to convince you.

(Thanks for letting me ramble on!)

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