Explicitly Social Software: We Have Met the Network and It Is Us

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The Infectious Greed post Data Should be the Intel Outside has been getting a bit of play in the last few days. In it, Paul Kedrosky proposes that the spectre of proprietary data is hovering over the green fields of Web2.0. [Go read the post now if you haven’t already.] And, for a number of reasons, I agree with him.

Seems to me that we’re now seeing some real movement towards the age of Explicitly Social Software; when people say that “the network is the computer” these days, they’re not talking about Sun, nor even about the power that comes from using that network to share and develop open technologies. Rather, people are talking about how their data — their data, I emphasize — lives on the network now, not a single computer. That network is made up of data of the people, by the people, and for the people, if you will.

That’s a complicated thing, though. If you’re providing one of those services out on the network and need to make enough money to keep the lights on, it’s a scary thing to remove “data lock in” from your day-to-day toolkit. If you’re using those services, how much information do you actually want shared? How do you manage all of that data now that the network is your computer, and then damn thing never shuts down?

At this point I doubt that we’ll ever hit the point where all data is open, and believe that there’s going to be a fair amount of resistance and bizarre “sorta shared” experiments before we even get to “most data is open.” But this is something that matters to us — the people who make up the network — and will matter a lot more five years from now; as Paul says, the time to start working on this is now. And unfortunately, we are the network, so there really isn’t anybody else to do it for us…