We are the enablers

We are the enablersStewart Alsop On Server Side State. We are moving to a server side state world. Client side applications are fine, but they are simply the local glue to make server side data more manageable…Entrepreneurs, over to you. [VentureBlog] ISPs, are you listening?? [Scott Mace's Radio Weblog]

Andrew Anker and Stewert Alsop describe the typical problems of a digital lifestyle. They need to keep their email, messages, web services, files and bookmarks in sync, along with all their PIM information – such as contacts, friends lists, subscriptions, schedules, calendars, etc. with them (or at least access to) at all times.

But they'll also need to keep their media with them, as well – (I hope that Andrew or Stewert can find the time to listen to music, take photos or watch TV 🙂 

This is where the “server” mentality breaks down.  Media has to be right next to you – but you obviously can't take it ALL with you.  So a virtual file system is needed, which would abstract the notion of your media and files – and enable you to move between your upstairs bedroom and your downstairs den.   From an on-line world to a disconnected off-line world (heaven forbid!)  While still in your home or at the office or school, local or remote, or on the road, outside in back or down the block.  Access to ALL your music, video and photos – at ALL times.

A virtual file system would enable you to access machines on your Home LAN, while also stashing things away on backup drives, serving up web URLs from centralized hosted facilities, pinging your cell phone, synchronizing with your PDA, streaming onto your TV, recording onto some optical drive or naintaining a custom installation in some sort of venue or “off-site” location.  Every device you own will be part of this network, and it should work as easy as email or IM.  New kinds of storage devices will plug into this networked file system, and all we have to do to get there – is think of all our files, media and just about everything else – as 'objects'.

Each object gets it's own meta-data, has it's own sets of rule (like who owns it, paid for it, where it currently is, what it's limitations and gotchas are) and BAM we're ready for not only our digital lifestyles, but a semantical web.  Tah Dah!  Now that wasn't too hard – right?

Longhorn will have such a file system. I assume Apple will.  We'll need to mesh these systems together – with an open, people's file storage system.  That's kind of what I meant – when I said “open media standards”.

As long as we assume that 'servers' are just a term that refers to a machine running a task, which isn't necessarily the machine your typing on – then calling it a “server side world” is probably OK.  I've always felt that the concept of “server-in-the-closet” was the right way to describe what we're doing.

Except everytime I'd mention that phrase to someone, they thought we were building hardware.

If I have one complaint, it's purely semantical (no I doesn't have anything to do with RDF.)  By calling it a “server side world” Stewert and Andrew imply that the data, the control, the infrastructure and the essence of the app and service live on the server.

This is clearly wrong.  What a distributed, decentralized world gives us – is the privacy of an individual client machine, matched with the power and flexibility of a server based world.  That's the beauty of XML-RPC and SOAP.  We can freely mix and match servers, clients, or other devices – at will.  But that's not called a server based world.  The unique balance between a rich media client and it's complementary server side components makes up (what Macromedia calls) a 'rich internet application'.

It's actually a hybrid of client and server (and no I don't mean client/sever:-)  All media and files are shared through a virtual file system, which abstracts the location of every file and asset in the machine – across one's digital lifestyle.  The situation that Alsop explains (which is typical of any medium or advanced user today) can be solved by thinking of your files, media, bookmarks, friends list, email, messages and web services – being accessed through an integrated, aggregated desktop – a broadband kind of “my waystation”.

This sort of interface was started with MyYahoo, but got stalled on the HTML page and Yahoo's insistence on a “straw sipping” approach.  But new kinds of user experience are now possible that integrate and aggregate your entire digital lifestyle into comprehensive “personal spaces” – that follow you around through your road warrior, commuting digital lifestyle world.  That's what we've been working on for a long time, and it's all coming together right now.  RSS is the flow, OPML is the file format, XML-RPC is the means – and WE are the enablers.  [Marc's Voice]

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