JULIAN BOND ON CANTER AND INFOCARD

Julian Bond of Voidstar responds to Marc's post and again asks for proof that it will be possible to implement Identity and Service providers compatible with InfoCard that run on the LAMP stack.

Went along to *Mashup last night, Sam Sethi spoke about Microsoft's Live products (coming soon). As tends to happen at these things, my muttered “Oh Good Grief” was a bit too loud and I got asked to ask a question by the moderator. I said how ironic it was that we were at a presentation to talk about mashing 2 web application APIs together to create a 3rd when what we were being presented with was one Microsoft future product working with another Microsoft future product. I then questioned whether Infocards was actually open which was what had prompted the original “Good Grief”. Marc Canter leapt in and did his aggressively optimistic thing and mentioned “Cynical Brits” (which I take as a compliment!) before throwing in a bit later a battle cry of “OPEN STANDARDS”.

So anyway, Marc's blogged all this, and I added the following as a comment.

It’s so hard to have this conversation. I really, really hope that Infocards is open enough that it’s *possible* to write a LAMP based Identity Provider and Service provider that uses and interoperates with other Infocard systems. I don’t expect Microsoft to help with this, but I don’t really understand why they can’t. If Infocards were an open source standard, you’d see sample code and libraries being built by the community for multiple platforms. But because the source is a company, we apparently can’t expect them to also be the community or put effort into kickstarting the work. So the task falls on us. We end up having to do all the work with no help beyond reading the specs because we find it interesting. But I worry that the end result is that the LAMP community will not bother precisely because the spec came from Microsoft. The conclusion then is that Infocards is exactly the same as Passport. A reasonable identity system that only ever gets used inside Microsoft’s garden. The garden may have no walls but there’s still nobody else in it. What would be worse than this would be if Infocards has an open spec but the spec requires technology that only Microsoft has. Then it really doesn’t matter whether it’s open or not, it’s still impossible for anyone else to implement. For the record, I think that’s where it’s going. Like I said at the start I really, really hope I’m wrong.

I’ve thrown down a gauntlet in front of Kim Cameron. “Explain how InfoCard will get implemented on LAMP systems”. That doesn’t mean Kim has to do it, or that Microsoft has to do it. It’s only asking Microsoft how they think it will get done and by implication whether they’ll do anything to help. 9 months later, I’m still waiting for an answer.

The deeper question in here is how much any of these BigCos can open up and involve and support the development community when they are “in the business of taking care of themselves”. Google’s work with XMPP and Yahoo’s API groups are hopeful signs that people in those companies can see the self interest in supporting and listening to 3rd parties. Can Microsoft do the same thing? Or is the limit of their openness to use open standards? Although even that is a huge step which should be applauded.

Sam Sethi said some things that suggest that he does get it. And he’s a consultant working back in his old company not an employee. But I’m afraid the presentation seemed to be a classic MS presentation of futures, most of which were “Me Too” products, sprinkled overall with plenty of FUD. I’ve sat through too many of those not to be just a tiny bit cynical.

Of course Julian has the right to be as cynical as he wants. Doubt is the precondition of truth. And I think his guantlet is cool because it makes our discussion more concrete.

I told him last year that I accepted his challenge. And yesterday I did my first demo of using InfoCards to access a web service running on the LAMP stack: my blog.

Blogologists will have noticed that I switched from Radio UserLand to WordPress recently. It's written in PHP, and I chose to run it on LAMP (Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP). My main motivation was to understand the issues facing my colleagues in the blogging community who use non-Microsoft technology. Along the same lines, I've moved my blog to a service provider so that I am running in a truly vanilla LAMP environment.

Moving my blog to LAMP wasn't that hard – given that I had some help. But then I had to learn not only how to program in WordPress, but, in its underlying language – PHP.

This has been eating up my “blogging time” more than I would have liked. But I have good news. I've now been able to put together some mods for WordPress that allow my site to accept infocards.

The mods were written in PHP, and Johannes Ernst - who I've been speaking with at the Berkman Identity Workshop – has asked me to publish the code on my blog. So I will. And I'll explain how it works.

I realize InfoCards aren't exactly ubiquitous right now, so you won't be able to try it out immediately. But this weekend I'll be posting a link to a video of the user experience.

MARC CANTER ON WINDOWS LIVE

I like Marc Canter because he's fun, tells it like it is, and seems to be totally committed to changing the world with cool new software and ideas. It's true that the metaphor of the “lumbering Mongol horde” might not be seen, by everyone, as totally flattering – but hey, who's looking for flattery? The goal is to supervitalize our industry, and Marc's reading of what is happening really interests me. Here's what he says about the Windows Live initiative Ray Ozzie is working on.

OH MY GOD – Microsoft Live is Hailstorm 2.0 …..but in a good way. Assuming they allow us to mesh into it – and vice versa.

As I sat in the etribes.com/mashup last night (near the Savoy Theater, off the Strand) – I was honored to listen to Sam Seshi rap out Microsoft’s Live.com platform. Similar to NetVibes in a lot of ways, Live.com right now is just a simple Ajaxian ‘build your own dashboard’ UI.

What I was struck with – was how similar the long term strategy is to AOL’s new AIMspace platform – which will be shipping – soon. The Microsoft stuff has all the usual stuff: Local services, favorite lists, external modules, personal pages and federated IDs. But so will AOL and Yahoo as well.

In other words – the integrated DLA platform wars have begun!

Microsoft Live is the dashboard for an entire slew of Microsoft Web 2.0 like services and applications. They have this coolio new IM based system called Live Contacts, and a comprehensive Ad Center (which would track and sell end-users behavior patterns and support AttentionTrust.org.) By far – the coolest, newest thing Sam talked about was a Microsoft Point and Redmption system. Sam claimed Google had Google Points already, so now they had one of those – too!

What struck me on the head like a sledge hammer was that this was first time I had ever heard a Microsoft person talk about trust, openness and end-users controlling their own data! What a twlight zone moment! For someone like me to have seen the old Microsoft execute like a slow lumbering Mongol horde, destroying all in its paths, here they were – ONE MORE TIME – changing horses in mid-stream and redirecting their efforts in the way “that the wind blows”.

God dammit – that is Bill and Steve’s genius. The ability to smell the roses and head in that direction. No matter what the trend and era is. They never innovate or take the risks. But once a new direction is clear – they come storming in like a wave of Mongols.

Sam talked about a future which first got worse (with huge data silos forming in 2007) with the inevitable opening up of those data silos in 2008. That’s where our vision of destiny defers. I think we – no in fact I KNOW we can do better than that. I KNOW we can all work together – off the batt and not go through a painful era of fighting over who owns what consumer or member list.

What Sam rapped out was an elegant sophisticaed, Microsoft style integrated platform, just like he was pitching Vista or some XBox strategy. That’s exactly what AOL and Yahoo are doing – as well. They’ll all have their own DLA-like platform – and offer us ‘open modules’ to plug ourselves into.

Coolio – we like that!

I guess Kim Cameron really has had an effect there at Microsoft.

On one hand you can say “Hailstorm” is back – on the other hand it’s based upon open standards this time – RSS, OPML, microcontent, digital IDs.

What we know this time is what to demand of Microsoft (control over our own data and personas) and though Passport is still around (as the internal MS ID system) they’ve started to roll out the notion of the ‘meta-identity’ system, as propounded and developed by Kim Cameron and his team.

Julian Bond was in the audience and immediately complained “they’ll never be a LAMP version of Infocards” – but what I wanted to explain to Julian was that Microsoft is in the business of taking care of themselves, just as Yahoo, Google and AOL are – as well. So don’t expect a Linux version of anything from Microsoft, but you CAN expect meta-identity compatible ID systems for LAMP – that’s for dam sure.

For sure – each of these giants will make their own decisions, in their own due time, but at the end of the day – if they don’t open up – they’ll eventually lose their customer.

At least we have a way to connect these giant worlds together (and take us small little fry along for the ride at the same time.) That’s a huge breakthough and is the foundation of us building the distributed web infrastructure. What I’ve been chanting about is our own Open Source Infrastructure and the other kinds of open standards we need.

So it was really glorious to hear Sam’s rap last night. I came away incredibly excited and anxious to meet those folks at Mix06. I’ll have a list of requests for compatiblity with our open ‘tentacles’ which will enable us to mesh all that Vista/MS Live stuff – in with AOL and Yahoo based data and content – as well.

Just think of the beneficiaries – US!

StructuredBlogging.org is an attempt to keep all the various formats of microcontent compatible. Our upcoming PeopleAggregator APIs will provide basic social networking capabilities – to all – and a way of inter-connecting disparate social networks into one giant distrbuted mesh.

The world of media needs standards like Media RSS and one could imagine burgeoning new standards around Tags, Reputation, Events and Musical tastes and preferences.

Clearly the strains between open and closed, BigCo vs Independents and GYM vs the rest of us has begun. Though the GYM moniker needs to include AOL and Apple too – as well. GYMAA.

But they don’t have all the options yet – either. Remember that ALL the innovation is coming from us, and we ain’t done yet. What Microsoft DIDN’T show was groups, tools or any sort of integrated media management (i.e. tie your gallery into music downloading, master playlists, shared data and tagging.)

Now the question is – how open will Microsoft Live be? Sure you can always paste a Flickr module onto one’s public page, but will we be able to read/write all the content and meta-data and move it around freely? Many in the audience were fearful and doubt Microsoft’s intentions.

Me – I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt cause as soon as they fuck up – we’ll all just drop them like a 10 ton stone. For that same reason I’m willing to give AOL and Yahoo a shot at my loyalty – too. Ideally we’d get them all playing off of each other.

So with Microsoft joining Yahoo and AOL in providing ‘open platforms’, that leaves only Apple and Google left in the GYMAA alliance. Afterall – all the Content typed into Google Base is owned by Google – right? And I’m completly positive Apple will be all open and such – right?