Augmentation Gone Wild


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Joe Andrieu has written a blog post on Netizen Developers wherein he makes this assertion:

As netizen developers, we have an obligation not just to do what makes us money, or even what makes users happy, but to build systems that work at Internet scale, when everyone does it. If the systems we build don't work when everyone tries to get into the game, then we are just being selfish, hording value just because we are first-to-market.
From joeandrieu.com » Blog Archive » Netizen Developer
Referenced Tue Mar 03 2009 09:07:56 GMT-0700 (MST)

He mentions systems like the one we're building at Kynetx, others like ad blockers, as well as his own toolbar-based SwitchBook. You might view his point as altruistic given the quote I use above, but his real point is "how to we make this all work?"

It comes down to a question of open systems. Open systems that work, work when everyone does it, because that's where you get game-changing economies of scale. The network effect only happens if the value of the system increases when more and more people use it and open systems are all about the network effect.

  • What happens if everyone uses TCP/IP? WhoohoO! Seamless interconnected networks.
  • What if everyone uses SMTP, POP, and IMAP? Yes! You can email anyone, anywhere, anytime!
  • What if every company, government agency, and organization uses HTML and http to build online services for their users? Mega efficiency. 24 hour engagement. Low-cost quick answers. Happier people and happier organizations.

Those are good open systems.

From joeandrieu.com » Blog Archive » Netizen Developer
Referenced Tue Mar 03 2009 09:10:59 GMT-0700 (MST)

I don't know that I or anyone else can answer Joe's questions completely at this point. The ultimate answer will include standards involving the execution environments that augmentation services operate in and how they interact with each other. This is a tough problem. There's not a single, elegant answer. To this point standards that have been written have mostly been security related and been something that makes mashup writing more difficult, not more reliable.

I don't see this as an "ethical" issue the way that Joe seems to--in terms of being a good "netizen." I see it through a practical lens. If we don't solve this, then users will solve it for us by just not using our stuff. That said, the problem with simply looking at this as an issue that vendors must solve is that it means that no one may build a true "system" that works in the way email, the Web, and the 'Net itself do.

Such a system is the solution that Joe proposes:

Ultimately, what we need is an open system that allows all of these types of augmentations from Adaptive Blue, SwitchBook, Kynetx, Azigo, Google, Skype, and others, to mingle smoothly in the same interface.

From joeandrieu.com » Blog Archive » Netizen Developer
Referenced Tue Mar 03 2009 09:44:04 GMT-0700 (MST)

Kynetx sees itself as that system. Azigo is built on top of Kynetx and ultimately so could most of the others.

Joe says we need an "open system" and I agree. The word "open," however, comes with a lot of baggage that may not be helpful. Kynetx is not open in the sense that it's not open source. What it does provide, however, is an open API and a language specification that anyone could implement (note that this is still in development). We may open more in the future as we determine how this works and discover business models.

I look forward to discussions about the model and requirements for adoption. I'm especially interested in figuring our how what Kynetx is building can better serve as a platform for creating web augmentation services that work well for users and don't conflict.