The users outfoxed us again. It happens every fifteen years or so in this business, We lost our grounding, the users rebelled, and a new incarnation of the software business has been created.
What is it? The Internet, of course. It’s a very magic thing whose potential has barely been explored. New stuff is happening almost on a daily basis. There’s a rebellious spirit to it…
Now the tail is wagging the dog! The old software industry is struggling (even flailing) to not be random idiots. The next versions of Windows, Macintosh and OS/2 are all Internet clients, with the standards supported — Gopher, WAIS, FTP, Telnet, Mosaic, news groups, etc. It’s an incredible thing because none of the platform vendors had any say in the definition of these standards! It isn’t based on OpenDoc, OLE 2.0, Kaleida, Taligent, AppWare, or any of the various database standards that Philippe and Bill were arguing about a few years ago. Or even MAPI or VIM. Remember OCE? Do you remember how important those things seemed at the time?
He wrote that on October 18. 1994. This was before Netscape, before Amazon, before eBay and waaaay before Google.
Yesterday Dave wrote two equally prescient and important posts: A bit about Open Social and Think about all the frees and opens and what they reveal. In the first he says,
When Google makes their announcement on Thursday, the question they should be asked by everyone is — How much of my data are you letting me control today? That’s pretty much all that matters to anyone, imho.
And in the second he looks at all the “Open _____” and “Free _____” mantras, then adds,
These aren’t good or bad, they just serve someone’s interest without thinking about the users’ interest (at best) or counter to the users’ interest (at worst). Which suggests maybe it’s time to get to the point. Free Users. 🙂
Here’s my corollary to both: When we have free users, we won’t ask companies to “let me control” my data. Instead, we’ll ask “What data of mine will I let this or that company use.”
Think about what it means to be a “user”, and what a “user” is.
Because companies are users too.
The idea behind this challenge isn’t to put the shoe on the other foot, but to put proper shoes on both feet.
We need real relationships here. Not the kind where one party has the exclusive power to “let” the other party have rights, data or anything else. Not the kind where one party has to beg the other party for their freedom. Not the kind where “Customer Relationship Management” consists of “capturing”, “managing” and “owning” customers as if they were cattle.
We will never have truly free and open markets — ones with choices for customers among large suppliers that go beyond “Which rancher’s fenced land shall I graze in?” — until users on both the demand and the supply sides are truly free. And that will only happen when both sides have the tools to express their freedom and independence, when both can assert the terms by which they are willing to relate — for the good of themselvess and each other.
We have those tools on the sellers’ side. We lack them on the buyers’ side. Correcting that is what ProjectVRM is all about.
Bonus link from Britt Blaser, with a bonus quote: Where there’s folk, there’s fire.