What are the most important aspects for a User-Centric web to me? In a User-Centric web:
- I get to own my data and my interactions
- I control my privacy
- Services travel along with me, instead of me traveling to those services
- I do not perceive walled gardens, I can take my data with me and (re-)use it wherever I want
- Services connect to me in a standard manner, allowing me to (re-) use my data (think friend list, unified messaging, interaction, privacy control etc here)
It basically changes the balance of power inside out. Instead of putting control at the web service, control should be with the individual user. If we switch to this perspective you will find that a lot of the issues we currently see on the web would be solved quite naturally. We would not need destination-based business models (with complementary user-lock-in and walled gardens). It would solve the biggest web 2.0 tragedy as service providers would have to compete on user value, instead on network value. And privacy, or the lack of control, of it, would be solved automatically, as the user decides what to do himself. that doesn’t imply that everything will be locked down. It just implies the user explicitly can decide what to do, including the option to share everything.
The problem with this concept is that it takes plumbers to realize it. You need development effort to focus on the core aspects of the way the web works. It isn’t about creating a new Facebook or Twitter. There is no glorious, unique business model available to make this happen. It really isn’t even about technology. we already have the technological capability to make it happen. The real issue is revenue. Unless we figure out a way to generate revenue in this User-Centric web, we won’t see it happen easily. There are movements working on this. OpenID is a great example. But we will need commercial companies to embrace this concept and bring it to life. Unless there is a revenue generating perspective they simply will not do this.
The exception is obviously Google. Google is not only the largest revenue generating machine on the web, they are by far the biggest plumber too. Their recently announced Google Wave is a typical example of this. They have just provided us the mean to re-invent the way online communication works. This is going to have a huge impact on existing communication and social networking services if adopted. Google wave to me is one of the first initiatives that will allow us to develop User-Centric services.