modular innovation review

Modular Innovation gets a Weave

weave The direction of products on the Internet is one of Modular Innovation. Key in this emerging next generation of products are the qualities of portability and user control. Mozilla Weave is representative of just such a Modular Innovation.

The Modular Innovation…

Weave is an open infrastructure and data exchange model that may eventually be, to online applications, what Firefox is to plug-ins.

As though quoting from my own writings on Modular Innovation, the basic principles behind Weave (excerpted from Mozilla Labs website)…

  • provide a basic set of optional Mozilla-hosted online services
  • ensure that it is easy for people to set up their own services with freely available open standards-based tools
  • provide users with the ability to fully control and customize their online experience, including whether and how their data should be shared with their family, their friends, and third-parties
  • respect individual privacy (e.g. client-side encryption by default with the ability to delegate access rights)
  • leverage existing open standards and propose new ones as needed
  • build an extensible architecture like Firefox

Mozilla Weave is simultaneously a product, an architecture, and a data exchange model. It provides for the mirroring and synchronization of both metadata and actual data between different applications, computers, and locations. Basically, Weave exists to provide all the necessary hooks for developers to then leverage in new, extensible ways… all resulting in the user’s greater control of their Internet user experience.

Coinciding with the launch of weave is a POC (proof of concept) whereby the intent is to allow a user of Firefox to synchronize both bookmarks and browsing history across multiple computers. There have been a ton of bookmark synchronizers done in the past, allowing for all of ‘your’ computers to share the same organized set of bookmarks. However, having one’s browsing history can be seen as an early example of synchronizing local computer state across multiple computers. It does not take much imagination to foresee extending this POC to encompass more of the browser — switching to a mobile device or other computer and having all of the browser tabs that were open on your home computer, automatically open, accounts logged into, everything just as you left it, accessible wherever you go via whatever device you use.

The Limitations…

Right now, Mozilla’s Weave is at version 0.1. It is much too early and it would also be too presumptive to claim to know what limitations will remain when/if a version 1.0 ever emerges or what new or different limitations or restrictions may evolve. Today’s limitations of Mozilla Weave can be seen as…

Firefox only. Actually, Mozilla Weave will only run in Firefox 3 Beta and greater. Hopefully, through open standards, Mozilla’s Weave will be able to move beyond a single browser to all browsers and platforms.

APIs. There aren’t any…yet. They will be coming out soon. However, through API’s one can better understand the true directions and intentions of the underlying product. So, for now, we can only infer from the ‘marketing’ and POC.

Redundancy. Information can currently be stored at a single Weave server of choice. However, eventually the needs for reliability of accessibility will dictate being able to setup a primary and secondary (and tertiary and…) Weave server to make sure the user is always able to stay in control of their information and not be dependent upon one server, service, or company. For the moment, it seems logical, that since no restrictions are placed upon whose servers the data can be stored on, that open source will also facilitate the generation of generic plug-ins for use by other/all browsers — as long as Mozilla or others do not put up any new roadblocks into the potential broader adoption.

So, there remains much to do and many paths that may be followed other than the ones I hypothesize herein. The Mozilla Weave API’s won’t even be out until sometime in the beginning of 2008 (first half of 2008?). For now, Mozilla Weave, especially in its current form, is something to be ‘played’ with, discussed, and used to spur imaginations forward about what this and other similar products may eventually bring into reality.

The Possibilities…

There are many cool concepts that can become reality through the leveraging and expansion of the Mozilla Weave framework.

  • Enable fully centralized and portable social network settings (friends, apps, etc.).
  • Store files, spreadsheets, and documents and access and edit them from anywhere.
  • Backup computers and maintain redundant copies of your data, such as file backups and bookmarks (already implemented in the version 0.1 prototype).
  • Increase the portability of one’s own generated content. Easily move from one CMS (content management system), or social network, etc., to another; more easily migrate and convert from WordPress to tumblr to Blogspot… they become platforms for editing and displaying your data, data that is stored centrally on a Weave server, not being dependent upon any of these or product platforms.
  • Control and customize access permissions of your own content by product, groups, and friends.
  • Maintain all state information via a centralized form of persistent state memory. For example, remember the exact state of products and browser windows and be able to transfer those sessions from product to product, from device to device.
  • Couple Mozilla Weave with something like Google Gears and you have an experience that is available both online and offline from whatever device and location you choose!

More use cases from Mozilla can be found here.

Furthermore, I can envision a future optimal situation where a product user can set up multiple servers to be able to leverage local, Mozilla, and 3rd party servers to store the data so that the individual never has to worry about an outage or loss of data; where the servers used within the configuration not only keep the individual’s data accessible and synchronized, but also synchronize between one another, server-to-server, to provide always-available type of access and true user control of their online content and experience.

I hope to see other enablers just like Weave emerge to offer everyone further redundancy and allow us all to not be locked into one platform or framework or service provider. Mozilla Weave is clearly all about user control, ownership and portability of one’s own content and data. It will be very exciting to see how this Modular Innovation enabler evolves, how others similar to it evolve, and how well they also interact with one another.

Read more…


Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

1 comment

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