It began back in 1981, when I was a freshman in high school. At the time, I had been programming in basic for a year or two, and I was learning C at my father's office at Raytheon. There were a few kids I grew up with who were geeks, and we really divided our group using two dimensions. The first was the platform, and I'm sorry to say that I was NOT one of the Apple guys. My mom bought this Tandy RadioShack Model I with 16k Extended Basic - so my lot was cast there. The other dimension was data. There were those of us who hung around the mainframe doing COBOL, and those of us who simply didn't. I didn't. My friend, Ed Kirwin pictured above on the right, next to my best friend Peter DiPippo, did. I remember giving him a good dose of grief about it, as I thought the real studs went into scientific programming. How hard could those data centered applications be? I still have the plaque from my father's desk that says "Forgive us our transducers, as we forgive those that transduce against us." Of course, Ed went on to have an excellent career at Oracle. And me? Well, I'm not willing to call this game over yet, Mr. Kirwin. I don't care if you are still the dungeon master.
I'm not alone in my data blindness. When I was the editor for the first draft of the ADSL Forum's Internet Access Specification, it was clear they were giving it to the young guy because the Internet was the least important specification they had. (Video on Demand was the killer app. Ooops.) The Web model in 1994 was straight-forward. You clicked on a web page, the page streams to your server. One little tiny click up, one massive file of 100k down. ADSL was perfect for that, right? Lots of downstream bandwidth, a little upstream bandwidth. (Never thought of P2P, Flickr or Torrents. Ooops.)
Of course, now we are in a very different place with data. We are now in the era of the collaborative web... the programmable web... the literate web. For the vast majority of Web 2.0 startups, the data is what is monetized, not the functionality. From the (now famous) What is Web 2.0? article from Tim O'Reilly :
The race is on to own certain classes of core data: location, identity, calendaring of public events, product identifiers and namespaces. In many cases, where there is significant cost to create the data, there may be an opportunity for an Intel Inside style play, with a single source for the data. In others, the winner will be the company that first reaches critical mass via user aggregation, and turns that aggregated data into a system service.
If you feel like you don't have a good handle on Web 2.0 data, here's the video you need to see. It's only five minutes, and you really ought to take a quick look. As for me, I need to get off to work, and install that PostGres package for the new gateway I'm designing. I hope Ed is doing OK.