Am I competing?
Monday, June 25, 2007 by Dave Winer.
I had a philosophical talk about this last week with Marc Canter. For a long time, he and Doc Searls had been saying publicly that I ought to do something to help unify the identity space. Mike Graves, formerly of VeriSign, was saying similar things. I always wondered what they meant. Did they know how I would do it, if I would try to do it?
Last week I spelled it out for Marc. If I try to coalesce some kind of standard the only way to do it is by competing. Writing a spec and asking nicely if everyone would implement it gets you nowhere. The only way to get something to stick is to put up a compelling app, and let the market drive a standard. Tech people don't play nice unless the market forces them to.
That's how it worked with RSS. There was a period of a few years when my software and content dominated, and that's how RSS came to be the powerhouse it is. I had the three sides of the puzzle needed to drive a standard. 1. A tool that generates the content. 2. A tool that consumes the content (two horrible words, but what are you going to do) and 3. Content.
1. and 2. were Radio UserLand. It was a blogging tool that generated RSS 0.92 and then RSS 2.0, and an aggregator that consumed these formats (and all others of course). Following the logic of Postel's Law, we were conservative in what we send, and liberal in what we receive. And #3 was at first Scripting News, and then the content flow of our very powerful partner, The New York Times. 1, 2 and 3, that's all it took. In other words, everything.
So if TwitterGrams take off, and I think they might, I'm going to have to put some software in the middle of it. A new branch to the coral reef that Twitter is. And then people can build compatible front ends, and compatible back ends, and everybody will be happy. Hopefully when the dust settles, if there is something to this, I'll be left with something of value to reward me for the risk and effort (and the years of barking up fruitless trees and chasing down blind aleys, and convincing people they should listen to me). But, as I have found out many times, there are no guarantees if you choose to work openly, which I do.
Anyway, if you have a service that could be turned into the PuppyGram service described above, go for it. I may do one myself, I do have a desktop client I like to work in, but there's room for so many, in so many different environments. Think about all the places RSS reaches and that'll give you some idea how diverse this kind of market can be.