Resposting My PeopleWeb Post

given yahoo’s announcement today and the fact that my old blog posts dont show up here, i’m reposting this with comments…

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The PeopleWeb

i believe we are close to the point where people will start to be organized online into a ‘peopleweb’ where browsers will surf and search through people not pages. i will attempt to describe the what, how and why below.

what is the peopleweb? as more people take on ‘open’ identities online, that can be crawled, found and linked to with bits of semantically organized data like ‘profile’, ‘about me’ or ‘my tribes or groups’, there will soon be an ability for search engines to organize people into relevant groupings. the key relevance here will be based on two intersections; people’s group affiliations so that i can quickly find experts in flying bonanzas in baja and people’s credibility which may be estimated in a number of ways from how ‘linked’ you are to who you’re linked to to slashdot type ratings if they evolve to work in an independent fashion.

how will the peopleweb happen? along with my vision of the revolution of the ants, the big portals will all succumb to their audience’s desire for openness and transportability of online identities. people will no longer choose to invest in a profile that is locked into msn or friendster (or tribe). just like email had to be free and compuserve lost out to aol, so too will profiles. we already have this with blogs. my company, tribe.net, will soon be launching open profiles which will let people compine elements of their blogs with social and community networks. this will occur with virtually every site, where users will decide who has access to what, whether it’s by degrees of separation or group affiliation. this wont be decided by my company, friendster, linkedin, yahoo’s new thing etc…

what will the peopleweb enable? well, imagine a future where the network acts as one database. you will tell the web that you are single and what your dating criteria is. your dating profile will only be shown to those people (so no more daily humiliation of your sisters and friends snickering that you describe yourself as a tall dark handsome romantic). kinda unhappy with your job. no problem. tell the network you’re available for jobs paying over $150k, vp level, and maybe you want to limit to a few companies or block them. wanna organize a poltical revolution without leaving your home? just tell the network you are into ’emergent democracy’ and ‘legal revolution’ (possibly through group tags) and you will automagically be connected with all the other archair revoultionaries.

i find it exciting that google has no inherent advantages in organizing the world’s people and groups. google’s forte has been normalizing disparate information that didnt necessarily intend to be found. the peopleweb will be much more about people wanting to be found. if people choose to semantically organize, then the act of aggregating them and sorting relevance will be a trivial task, quickly commoditized and performed by any service.

beyond the peopleweb, the network becomes the marketplace…wanna sell your car? just tell the network make, mileage and price. no more worrying about which network and price will work out best. in a world where all information is free, database lockin and its proponents go away. in this world, the ante is aggregation and syndication, winning is about surfacing better relevance. interesting questions to me are what role does ebay, amazon (used merch) and google play. if i can readily find any new or used book from any online bookstore; if i can just as easily get bids on my car with joecars.com as ebay, where is the value? does the traffic value go away? and then what value is left? do the intermediaries and marketplaces get commoditized and wiped out? will this be similar to how ECN’s wiped out the huge spreads and profits of wall street market makers? i wonder if one day ebay’s value gets disaaggregated into ratings, payment processing and escrow?

what will the roadmap look like? my guesss is that in the next year we’ll see the more enlightened big players realize that they are better off aggregating and syndicating than trying to stand alone defending their franchises and competing with the overall network. join it and extend. dont fight it and get left behind. AOL couldnt keep up with the overall network. i dont believe ebay will be able to either. (in fact, ebay announced today that they are launching an int’l competitor to craigslist. i think they will soon learn that the most powerful approach will be to aggregate everyone out there and syndicate back out. we’ll see.)

dont ask dont tell stage…today we’re at a point where officially the big players say no crawling, but unofficially they let it fly. indeed.com is quietly crawling everyone job service from career builder to craigslist. i hear that lycos has a dating service crawling all. makes sense. if i’m match.com and have the biggest db of single women, i should be in the pimping business. you can find my women everywhere but pay me if you want to meet them.

all for now. love to hear where any of you are seeing the peopleweb and one marketplace happen.

9 Comments:

fixer said…

"interesting questions to me are what role does ebay, amazon (used merch) and google play."Where’s the value in a butcher shop? they all have the same products, so how do they survive? I know I pass 3 different butchers to get to the one I like, even if I’m not buying their smoked ham or hot links that the other guys’ don’t carry. We are still creatures of habit and convenience, so the "value-added services" will be the meat & potato of what the services will offer, not the core data. the tools you use will come down to a personal preference, and some people will pay more for their tools than others. Use a chef’s knife, a Ginsu, a fancy mandolin slicer or a Quisinart, your food is still going to get chopped up and you’ll eat it.

another thought on the value of the peopleweb is that WUM’s (Wind-Up Merchant aka joke/spoof identity) will be easily caught out and reduced in value. Without a network wide profile of your life, a newly created WUM won’t have the full background to make them seem real. The problems that this brings is that it limits the effect of pseudonym’s like Publius or Alan Smithee, so it’s not foolproof.

I love the thinking here Marc, it’s the kind of stuff that gets me excited in the Network again.

4:17 AM
Randy Charles Morin said…

Quote: In the affluent, manic late ‘60s and late ‘90s, we really believed we had the power to reinvent ourselves. New ideas, new freedoms, or new technologies were going to bring forth the new, improved human at last. Then we woke up from that dream on recession’s morning after and found ourselves stuck with the same old, same old: greed, lust, wrath, envy, pride, gluttony and sloth. Almost as fast as Woodstock had turned to Altamont, the Internet turned into a huge hard-core peep show.

from here
http://ambivablog.typepad.com/ambivablog/2005/02/calling_all_spi.html

The problem is that we want to go from 0 to 100 mph in 6 seconds while towing a tank.

10:39 AM
Radha said…

For the above hypothesis to come true,one needs to consider the following aspects :
1. Need of Open Standards that will facilitate the movement towards peopleweb. Sites afterall have to exchange information. RSS standard is a classic example for the nascent blogging business

2. Businesses realizing the importance of adding value to the customer by adopting the open standards.(Having API’s released to all, etc)

3. Since the information about the people is culled from the network, the authenticity of the info becomes prominent . Who vouches for the authenticity of the info?

4. Considering that commerce is an essential building block of peopleweb, Identity theft needs to be abated for peopleweb to move forward.

All 4 aspects will play a crucial role in deciding whether peopleweb will see the light of the day.

7:28 AM
Michael Parekh said…

Curious if you think the various social networking companies and portals will deploy peopleweb features around emerging open standards, OR, a new separate company is required that then interfaces with the various social networking companies and portals.

Potentially big difference…

3:12 AM
Arul Sundaram said…

Glad to see you’re still espousing this idea, Mark!

I agree with the others that there are execution questions and problems, but the biggest driver of the coming change, IMO, is the value that is being created by all of these profiles on the web. As I go through my existence on the web, there are little bits of me at Tribe, Friendster, Linked In, AOL, BlackPlanet, Shaadi, etc. However, each of these profiles are directed inward toward the community. Even in cases where those profiles can be searched and found, their existence by themsleves is not nearly as valuable as seeing a collection of identities scattered through the web.

The reason that I believe that creating the collection will happen is that there is increasing opportunity for arbitrage here. Any one profile in itself is not so valuable to any specific community. In fact, getting people to view a profile is positive for that community. Having a directory that would help me navigate across communities and tie together the bits of information, therefore, could be seen as generating value for each individual community in the network. Therefore, the price to access profiles should be fairly low.

OTOH, the value in bringing together these profiles – from a user perspective – is significant. The creation of a more complete identity w/ its attendant directory becomes a valuable navigation tool.

The margin between the unlocked value and the price extracted by each individual community is what will fund the effort to integrate all of these communities. It hasn’t happened yet because the opportunity in the arbitrage isn’t quite there. However, as the value stored away in these profiles increases, it makes this sort of ‘PeopleWeb’ – IMO – inevitable.

9:44 AM
Marc Eisenstadt said…

The ‘open profiles’ concept is extremely exciting: congratulations to you and tribe.net for going down this route.

In a blog posting on ‘Digital identity: FOAF vs swarm intelligence’ that I made today before I had seen yours, I mentioned an oddity concerning central vs distributed profiles in the case of wikipedia entries, using the nicely-disambiguated entries for 13 different people named ‘Michael Jackson’ as the example: these entries simultaneously centralize (via common wikipedia URLs) and distribute (via the chaos of swarm intelligence authoring) the ownership of the ‘profiles’. Moreover, these profiles represent a peculiar case of un-owned and often un-attributed (provenance-free) personal data, editable by anybody/everybody, yet demonstrably stable, sound, and scaleable!

I’m wondering if you think such a model has any role within what you’re trying to achieve with tribe.net?

3:45 PM
Pete said…

It seems "open profile" is where the industry needs to go or risk being marginalized by companies like Yahoo. Essentially this is a means for Tribe, Linkedin, et al to very effectively compete. I also think it fits into the the future of identity management in that one "uber" about me, profile can be ported to other communities and the user can determine what information is presented to that community, or what can be syndicated.

My question is what role does identity verification by a trusted 3rd party play in enabling this to happen freely and securely. To be clear I mean identity verification beyond what is possbile/practical at one or maybe two degrees of seperation in a social network.

5:11 AM
Pete said…

You are definitely right on with this. It seems "open profile" is where the industry needs to go or risk being marginalized by companies like Yahoo. Essentially this is a means for Tribe, Linkedin, et al to very effectively compete. I also think it fits into the the future of identity management in that one "uber" about me, profile can be ported to other communities and the user can determine what information is presented to that community, or what can be syndicated.

My question is what role does identity verification by a trusted 3rd party play in enabling this to happen freely and securely. To be clear I mean identity verification beyond what is possbile/practical at one or maybe two degrees of seperation in a social network.

5:13 AM
Anonymous said…

LID aka Light-Weight Identity may come handy. It’s a P2P way of publishing semantic information about yourself securely by NetMesh. It supports FOAF and any kind of schema.

http://lid.netmesh.org

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