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Open as in…

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I linked to my post about social networks in a Facebook note, just to see how it works. I got an interesting response from Geoff Arnold who pointed out:

But how do you build an open version of a trusted third party? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

For instance, how could Paypal be open? Or Amazon’s new payment system? Could one create an “open” bank?

These are hard issues. There’s technical feasibility, and then there’s rationality. I assume that it is rational to prefer to be a monopolist….

Yes, I see what Geoff is getting and and also that I haven’t defined ‘open’ well enough. I agree, it can cover a multitude of sins, so let me clarify… Open as in not locked-in, open from the point of the user and his ability to use the data that is being collected by him and about him. It doesn’t mean indiscriminately open and accessible to everyone. Open as in offering much greater control over stuff that belongs to me, that I create and manage. Open as in opposed to siloed.

For example, all the data and purchase history I have on Amazon.com (actually it’s Amazon.co.uk). I would like to be able to put them somewhere, in a place that I can call my own. And then do clever stuff with it myself. Combine it with my reading habits, travels (to make sure I have reading material for those long airport queues), my calendar for people’s birthday, with my notes on vendors, my purchase history, my opinion about prices, trends and reading habits, share my views on books with my friends. (And not just use some silly widget somewhere on a blog but as a proper space, secure and private but shareable where I run my own affairs using not just a few apps like ‘to do’ or shopping lists but the entire range of tools that are available online, openly developed). Basically, a potential improvement on the sparse information available to me that Amazon and other vendors that they collect for their own purposes. Not mine.

The internet is an open platform, but it doesn’t mean everything is hanging out there for all to see. For example, open bank could mean that the safety deposit box belongs to you and only you can get inside it.

All this leads me to my current obsession project, which is VRM. We hope to address, or rather, redress the balance of power between the customers and vendors, individuals and companies, employees and processes…etc. So watch this space.

As for Quis custodiet ipsos custodes… how about Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.. :)

I tried to post this response on Facebook but, alas, could not. I got a message – comment is too long by 450 characters. Not enough space for a verbose blogger. So here it is, out in the open. :-)

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One Response to “Open as in…”


  1. Raz
    on Aug 8th, 2007
    @ 12:07 pm

    Geoff answers his own question by pointing to an obvious counter-example: banks.

    There is more than one bank in the world and none of them are silos. If I want to shift money from my account to yours then, capital movement controls notwithstanding, I can do so, regardless of which banks you and I hold our respective accounts at.

    In fact, a bank that is siloed, i.e. has no correspondent accounts with other banks, barely qualifies as a bank; more like a fund.

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