I have been hearing a lot about metadata ever since Flickr became the next best thing after scrambled eggs. The consistent refrain is a question on how seamless it can get. The past few years we have seen a consolidation and clear market leaders emerging on the internet which then led to the next challenge how to manage the data associated with them?
Flickr was one of the firsts to provide an answer - through APIs. Even though it is quite basic, flickr allows u to choose which applications you would like to authenticate and allow full access to once the correct credentials are provided to flickr by that application. And there were several that sprung up - List of Flickr Apps
Dirk Knemeyer writes on Data—The Essence of a Digital Lifestyle about how he found it difficult to move from Netflix to other providers because of the wealth of information that has been invested with Netflix. I consider data and the time we take to provide the data as investments we make and the companies give us returns on such investment through judicious choice of products to choose from. Amazon, also employs the same technique.
When Dirk Knemeyer complains:
The companies that own our data use it for their own business gain and make it available to us only as it serves their corporate needs. If I asked them to provide the data to me in a format that would work in a database that I owned, they probably would not even respond to my email message or would do so only with some outrageously generic stock response that didn’t even deal with the issue. So, my data, which remains splintered and owned by corporate interests, does not serve my own personal needs for its use, preventing me from leveraging what could, in an aggregated form, represent an incredibly powerful data record that would provide an interesting tapestry of my life.
I can see his flaw in considering these companies will provide data personally as would a mom and pop shop give you a detailed receipt or bill. Where I see Flickr as a breakthrough is companies providing APIs to harvest the investments you have with them for your gain.
You can already see the early adopters listing their del.icio.us links, amazon wishlists, flickr photos - everything made possible with the APIs. Even gmail provides an XML feed for your mail conversations.
There are several new organizing tools complementing gmail like ”Remember the Milk” which also generates ur todos and tasks in ical format enabling to outsource ur organizing needs to a seamless online platform. If and when google acquire them, gmail will become a powerful tool that would be a big threat to microsoft’s outlook.
Ultimately, I can visualise every online company you have investments with, providing APIs to enable authentication as well as other data as you see fit, that will replace today’s “sign up” forms, your diaries, and even your need to remember things, events and dates. The future is online.