November 4, 2011

Ideas: Egont, A Web Orchestration Language

Inspiration

Human curiosity goes beyond limited web applications, recommendation systems and search engines. People collect lists of things on the web. Things like music playlists, movie rankings or visited places are populating our web culture, but this information is spread out in different places and we need search engines, social networks, and recommendation systems to leverage it. The real-time web also offers transformation opportunities which are only limited by the imagination.

How can we adjust all this information to our personal or organizational needs? The semantic web could play an important role here, but the web is not organized semantically yet. However, it is possible today to give people tools to manipulate information at a personal and social level. Spreadsheets have hundreds of functions which are used by people with limited computer and mathematical skills. What if we could transform information in a similar way? What if a new stimuli, like a new tweet or a new ranked movie could trigger a cascade of processes?

People and organizations are sharing a record amount of data, but current web platforms tightly dictate the limits to its use. For example Twitter’s API has very small call rates for the general public. Most Twitter applications cannot retrieve more than one or two degrees of a user’s social network without working around these API limitations. Examples of API limitations abound, undermining the opportunities to leverage data potentials.

The inspiration for Egont was come from the idea of a social operating system. People do not only share data, they also share data transformations. Egont is a platform for writing simple code snippets, while allowing others to reuse them to extract new information. It is a shared pipeline which is focused on connecting people’s data and processes. It can be thought of as a living operating system: when a state changes, the dependant processes are recalculated. Although Egont has clear security controls it’s primarily oriented to data that can be shared, even providing tools for exporting information to be analyzed offline. The shift is from a perspective where users accept platforms applications, to a perspective where users do not only generate data but also processes. Users and third parties will be free to write new functions to extend Egont’s capabilities.

(continue to part ii)