On The Need For Business Stewardship, and Open Services

By samrose, published at 7 August 2007 - 10:43pm, last updated 12 years 25 weeks ago.

Burak Arikan recently wrote about the acquisition of services and data by services providers like Google, and yahoo.

Arikan writes

After the feed stats company Feedburner is acquired by Google, the AdWords integration to feeds became the dominant discussion. Great! Your blog business can now be managed from a single Google interface right. This also means that your blog traffic data change hands. Feedburner puts a notice in their sign in interface saying that you have a right to opt-out, delete your data. If you take no action by June 15, 2007 (9 days as of today), the rights to your data will transfer from FeedBurner to Google.

Feedburner has become a tremendously popular service, and it deserves the popularity. Feedburner offers some very useful tools for creating, managing and promoting blog feeds.

However, I think very many people have overlooked the core business model of the recent round of Internet start-up companies, like Feedburner. The model was (roughly) to create a great service that became wildly popular, then sell the whole business and technology, and set of user accounts, to a well funded portal provider like Yahoo, Google, or Ebay.

People have been talking about this in the blogosphere ever since the emergence of "Web 2.0" a few years ago. Now that it is coming to fruition, I think that users of these services are naturally kind of turned off by the inevitability of the transactions taking place.

One of the ideas that I've been proposing and thinking about is a "BusinessCommonsStewardshipCouncil" -approach. Basically, the idea is:

"A third party entity to “certify” that businesses meet or exceed a criteria and set of standards for sustaining and growing the commons that they use."

In the case, the "commons" is a commons of personal data and attention. What kind of choices would people make, if they had some way of easily seeing that a business carried out practices that sustained user control over their personal data?

The Forest Stewardship_Council and Marine_Stewardship_Council have shown that it is possible to objectively certify that businesses do not destroy the commons that they use. Consumer choices reflect that a significant, and growing number of people will base their choices on doing business with companies that take the time to certify themselves as being sound managers of natural resource commons. This in turn gives companies an incentive to want to be recognized as a company that carries out good practices in business.

The same incentive could exist for companies that deal with our personal data.

A related emerging phenomenon, is that:

  • open source software
  • increasing computer power
  • decreasing costs of hosting and bandwidth

...create a new accessibility for people to host their own services, and manage their own data. I believe that the instances of technology emerging to be applied towards sustained decentralized control of data, and creative content, will increase as more and more services providers begin to capitalize on the rights they've declared over data and content that users create.