There is a thing and there are ways to describe a thing. But why stop there?
FluidInfo is a startup company that has built a new information architecture that positions databases as an open-ended way to describe the world, with access by anyone to add entirely new fields of data to describe a given phenomenon and open to sorting by any combination of parameters. The company announced today that after years of development, it has found a home and some incredibly high-profile investors to back it. Expect this company to go from confusing obscurity to one of the most talked about back-end startups on the web.
What it Does
FluidInfo's primary product FluidDB is described as "a hosted database with the heart of a wiki." Founder Dr. Terry Jones has said "we're living in the shadow of archetictural decisions made decades ago" and believes that, as his product's About page articulates simply: "A new information architecture could be the basis for a new class of applications. It could provide freedom and flexibility to all applications, and these advantages could be passed on to users."
So FluidDB is something that will live under the hood of other web applications. There's something about it that brings Twitter Annotations to mind: these are technologies that are focused on exploding the number of ways that we can describe any given thing, and thus the number of things we can do with that data.
It's a little bit challenging to describe, but try this explanation out for size:
FluidDB is a single web of things providing a no-questions-asked writable social object to represent each and every thing. Using a flexible underlying representation of information and a new model of control, it allows users and applications to work with information without constraint. That includes dynamically organizing, sharing, combining and augmenting information, and searching in ways that have previously not been possible. It also allows users to choose exactly which information to share with whom, with separate controls for reading and writing.
The challenge will come in building effective interfaces that let end-users leverage the power of this paradigm. The project brings to mind Freebase, a project that has raised far more money, aimed to blow the world of data wide open, but has fallen short of its wildest expectations largely due to a shortage of usability.
Who will build interfaces for FluidInfo? The most likely candidates will be other startup companies backed by FluidInfo's new investors. That's an impressive group.
Blogger Robert Scoble called FluidInfo "an unfundable, worldchanging startup" 18 months ago.
Apparently it's not so unfundable anymore. Tech guru Esther Dyson had already put in money, and today the company announced that it's raised $800,000 more from Betaworks (investors in Twitter, Tweetdeck, Tumblr, Superfeedr and more), IAVentures (all about Big Data), RRE Ventures (possibly NYC's most respected startup investors, has backed Betaworks itself as well), Lerer Ventures (another knock-out portfolio), Chris Dixon and the Founder Collective, Joshua Schacter (creator of Delicious), Andrew Rasiej (founder of the Personal Democracy Forum) and others.
That's an incredible set of investors and will no doubt lead to some great introductions to hot startups all over the web who might make use of FluidDB.
What do you think? Is this as revolutionary as it looks? How can you foresee it being used to power a new model of applications?