Imagine the following: you are a designer and wants to make and sell your stuff online. You use a myriad of services available like the ones from Ponoko, Shapeways or Etsy. How do you go about that?
That is a real life question which I hear a lot and is definitely one worth looking into. A lot of services create their own little universe around their specific content or market. But the needs of users go beyond those little universes. But what can you do?
Another example: you have your own blog, you post your photographs on Flickr and you keep everybody up to date on your life on Twitter. But if friends ask you where can I find your photographs or read your blog posts, do you want to point them to you each of these individual services? Or how about your wishlist on Amazon, your favorite bookmarks on Delicious or your movies on YouTube.
A smart person will shout Facebook! right about now. But Facebook is definitely not the answer. It is just the same approach from a different angle. Facebook tries to do everything, but is not that good at anything particular. If you compare Facebook videos or Flickr photographs the service of Facebook is not even in the same universe. Whereby YouTube and the likes offer great services but are quite limited. They only do one thing great.
I am waiting for a service which enables users to bring content together. This service unlocks the content of individual users and enables them to mash them together to create their own little universe. Like Facebook it would enable groups of users to connect their content together create user groups. Just imagine families share their photographs of their last family day or hobbyists working together on their latest project.
While this aggregating mashup service connects content together it also let the content stay at those great services. Because those great services exist because sometimes you want to find content while you do not know the group or individual. You are just interested in the content. Then you would start at YouTube or Flickr to get respectively your video or photo fix.
A lot of the earlier mentioned services offer options to get their content and host it on another site. But there is no standard way of doing this. From a technical point of view there are different options available but there are also terms & conditions to consider. Services just do not allow to use their content in just any (commercial) setting.
To make this happen content should be made available through using standard protocols and interfaces. This is the easy part. It takes convincing and a compelling business case to make this companies move.
But the bigger challenge is to get the internet at large to agree on fair use of that content. Question mark number one is to determine who owns the content? Does YouTube own your video and can they decide what you can do with it while it is on their service or is the other way around and can you determine how YouTube should use your content. Without reading the terms & conditions of YouTube I can guarantee it that they are different than those from Flickr, Delicious, Blogger or Lastfm.
The next barrier of the internet is to break open the little — or in some cases large — universes created around services and enable users to mix content together to create new content. This would stimulate a lot of new innovative content to be created and make the web a more coherent space to live in. The internet now feels like you have a car parked in the next street, your bedroom is at the neighbours and your garden is 5 kilometers away. And I am curious how this will evolve in the future.