Mesh is a Mess…unless you’re in-the-know

Marc Canter (photo by Joi Ito –

If the web is truly going to become a place where we can move about freely — instead of deciding which social network or hottest-n-latest service to use and then investing in that closed proprietary network — then open standards all meshed together and portable are what we need…and now.

Many people I follow have written extensively about “profile” and participation fatigue” since we users are more and more reluctant to join yet another new service and do what’s necessary to maintain it and get all of our friends to join. I personally just had another ‘friend request’ to Pulse…but I’m invested in LinkedIn, using Twitter, and are wrapping it and other stuff up in FriendFeed,  and have little desire (or the time) to go invest in and maintain yet another service.

Marc Canter wrote today about How to Build the Mesh Part #1 and he hit many of the points I care about deeply that address the mess we’re in right now with mostly closed web-based social services. Though I think he mostly writes for an audience of a few dozen (those with social media offerings, are the folks building out standards or influencing them), he has FINALLY written something that someone just outside this circle of insiders might actually comprehend.

The essence of his post is this: you and I are investing ourselves all over the web in currently non-integrated sets of services that don’t talk to one another for the most part. In order to move toward a time when all of these different services allow YOU to coordinate, orchestrate and integrate your online life, there are sets of behind-the-scenes services that have to interoperate seamlessly so YOU can “own” your digital life and parcel pieces out to others with whom you’ll allow access to some, most or all of it.

As more social networks, services and applications arrive that ask you and I to invest time, energy and effort to participate with them online, they’ll fail if an interoperating mesh of services doesn’t exist since you and I will begin to resist joining and maintaining without that interoperating just happening seamlessly on the backend.

If you’re thinking of building out just such a network or community site, you must choose a platform vendor that understands the mesh is needed and is working toward a set of industry standards comprising a mesh of interoperating services. To do otherwise would see you not choosing a strategic vendor and you’ll paint yourself into a corner. You’ll then have an even bigger mess on your hands when your users realize what you’ve done and stop joining and participating in favor of those are open and connected or completely abandon your service.

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  1. Randy Roland on April 1, 2008 at 8:29 am


    I think you are correct here. Portability is key. Today I perceive many networks are positioned as competitive and closed perhaps as an attempt to accelerate a business model. When we met last week we talked a bit about the old retail main street. Profile portability would let people move between a host of complementary sites building their overall experience and leveraging the time they invest. As networks become more need focused rather than general, I believe the user demand for this portability will prompt change.

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About Steve Borsch

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.