Nicholas Carr writes: “Back when electric utilites first emerged, it was the smaller companies who led the way in hooking up to the shared grid. The prospect of avoiding big capital expenses and high labor costs, and all the associated headaches of owning a lot of specialized technology, outweighed the risks involved in moving to a new supply model. The same thing’s happening with IT today. Big companies, with lots of capital and lots of legacy systems, may be able to justify building their own internel IT utilities – they can gain considerable economies of scale on their own – but the equation’s very different for SMBs. As Berlind suggests, SMBs today would be well advised to approach their IT requirements – both hardware and software – with the assumption that they should be buying services, not assets. Sure, there’ll be plenty of exceptions, but that should be the going-in assumption. If IT isn’t your business, get out of the IT business.”
Feeds are at the heart of the New Web, and an RSS Aggregator is the best way to consume feeds. So far, the focus has been on private RSS aggregators where users read their subscribed feeds. There is also a need for public RSS aggregators which can showcase a collection feeds. [Topix.net is an example of a public RSS aggregator.]
The same basic idea of feeds can also be used to track topics across keywords by setting up alerts in the form of search words or phrases. With structured data, this can also be used to set up prospective (persistent) search. So, for example, you receive an alert when a stock price crosses a certain threshold.
The New Web can be used to track our specific interests or what friends and family members are doing, provided everyone publishes. Over the past few years, there has been a proliferation of publishing with blogging tools like MovableType and WordPress. Of late, this has extended to the creation of multimedia (images, audio and video) publishing. Mobile phones are helping accelerate the creation and consumption of user-generated content. Wrapped around feeds, this content can now be easily subscribed to and consumed in near real-time by those interested.
A lot of our life is about the new things. We would like to know what is on TV now. We would like to know the sales happening in our neighbourhood. We would like to see photos of our nephews and nieces as they grow up. So far, one has had to depend on either broadcast media or on other mechanisms of communication to know about the new content. Peer production combined with feeds can now make this much easier. This will lead to the creation of niche communities joined together by either a family bond or a common interest.
One of the innovations that will be needed around feeds is to support restricted access. This way, I can restrict the distribution of the content that I am creating. As Niall Kennedy wrote recently: Some syndication feeds are not meant to be displayed for the world to see. Our everyday lives contain private and confidential data we wouldn’t want anyone else to see, and especially not search…Examples of private feeds intended for 1:1 communication include bank balances, e-mail notifications, project status, and the latest bids on that big contract.
Facebook users may have been surprised to see their actions distributed to their friends via feeds. In a short while from now, it will be commonplace. The New Web is, quite literally, at hand!
Tomorrow: The Near Web