Marc Canter on the Structural Conditions for Building an Open Mesh

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Mark Canter has an extensive investigation of what we need to build the open mesh:

1) Layer One, Identity, Data Portability, Social Graph

"The key foundation set of constructs, web services and APIs to support when building the mesh - is the area of profiles, personas, friendships, relationships, social graphs and groups. It all starts with humans and every construct, element and component of the open social web we’re building has to do with people. So that’s I’m starting here.

Luckily for us- we have OpenID2, oAuth, FOAF and XFN/hCard as great starting points. And the new Social Graph APIs are now available to get us started building up portable social graphs.

Luckily for us - end-users are starting to become aware of their own ID rights, privacy and security. And the kinds of controls that THEY should be able to assert over their own data. Standards for access controls and privileges need to be established so as I move between systems or I opt in and allow others to move my profile, content and social graph data around - I have the ability to control who sees my data - and when." (

2) Layer 2: Persistent Ubiquitous Content.

"If you step back and think about content as infrastructure you can take a different attitude towards stock photos, soundtracks and beats, 3D models, 3D city models and all sorts of reusable digital content assets. You can bake historical references, sports statistics, background on diseases and weather trends into your blog posts and software. You can make collaborative hypermedia a dream come true.

A mesh which has ubiquitous persistent content in it - as a key construct - is a mesh that can provide health information, small business knowledge and courseware for all ages - free and built into word processors, email, spreadsheets or browsers.

A mesh which has ubiquitous persistent content in it - can enable entirely new kinds of record labels, movie studios and book publishers - which have a fighting chance of surviving. By lowering distribution, development and www costs - we can enable the Long Tail to at least cover their costs and pay the rent and feed themselves.

A mesh which has ubiquitous persistent content in it can seamlessly tie into other domains like the ‘Live Web‘ or ‘Tools‘- and seamlessly ‘mesh’ with other constructs like micro-content, aggregators or collections. (

3) Layer 3: Shared Structured Content Servers

"Call it micro-content, micro-formats, tagging, meta-data, semantic web, shared knowledge bases or what have you - the idea is that content comes along with extra ’stuff’ associated with it and that all that content and data is available on public, shared servers - where a community can contribute to it - and it’s overall value goes up.

Wikipedia in one way - is a shared structured content server. So is DMOZ. And there are all sorts of knowledge bases, open courseware and shared resources available on the web which could be considered ‘shared structured content servers‘.

But what I’m talking about here is one step beyond that. Something a bit more specific. It’s about shared Events, Reviews, local ads and info, maps, digital assets, even people databases or aggregated groups. Having APIs that can specify “Walnut Creek, April 20th, 2008 at 4:20 PM” kind of accuracy and granularity.

That means that the service needs Open APIs so developers (like us) can access it and rely upon it as infrastructure. Structured Content as infrastructure." (

4) Layer 4: The Live Web

"The Live Web is a commodity. Everybody is gonna have it - so there won’t be any huge tollgates or lock-ins into one particular technology or vendor. Even Skype is finding that out today. By utilizing tcp/ip and http the Live Web benefits from having an infrastructure in place to build on. But the Live Web can only be practical if it’s ALSO connected to the world of POTS and mobile devices.

GSM (the standard for cell phones) is pretty ubiquitous, but there are other forms of cell phone technology out there (CDMA) but nobody seems to worry about that. The different speeds for uploading and moving data (none of which are interoperable) have fragmented the so-called 3G world. But its the handset manufacturers and carrier platform vendors who have hopelessly fragmented the world of cell phones - to the point where there are over 10-15 different development platforms to worry about to ship ‘mobile’ compatible software.

This just makes it that more challenging in connecting the Live Web into the mesh - and enabling any kind of vendor to mesh into that same opportunity - as the Big Boys enjoy today. But it can be done!

The incredible real-time communication vehicle which we call IM, chat or Twittering provides a base platform from which 100’s if not 1,000s of unique solutions and innovative use case scenarios are being born - as we speak.

But the Live Web is more than just communicating.

It is about presence and just knowing if someone if there or not. And the world of 3D immersive virtual reality. Its about a swarm grid of tiny sensors monitoring the status of some factory or city streets and reporting back 20 times a second. Harnessing technology to improve our lives and make a buck - is what its all about." (