Singly was co-founded by Jeremie Miller, creator of XMPP, the open source foundation of most of the instant messaging in the world. Adding Zimmerman to the team is huge news.
Here's how we described Singly's open source work in February:
From Zimmerman's Blog Post on The Locker Project
"Today, we are creating vastly greater amounts of personal data, and it's stored in many more places. We leave our trail on the Internet in the form of activity streams, messages and content, spread across different web sites, each with their own inscrutable terms of service and (if we're lucky) their own API. These disconnected silos prevent us from using all of this information effectively.
"Meanwhile, we want--and need--to connect with each other in more ways than ever before. We need applications which can connect us, through our personal data, to the services we need.
"Singly is building the technology to make this possible. It will be designed with the deepest respect for the relationship that we have with our personal data, and with a vision for truly personal computing."
Called The Locker Project, the open source service will capture what's called exhaust data from users' activities around the web and offline via sensors, put it firmly in their own possession and then allow them to run local apps that are built to leverage their data.
Here's how The Locker Project will work. Users will be able to download the data capture and storage code and run it on their own server, or sign up for hosted service - like WordPress.org and WordPress.com. Then the service will pull in and archive all kinds of data that the user has permission to access and store into the user's personal Locker: Tweets, photos, videos, click-stream, check-ins, data from real-world sensors like heart monitors, health records and financial records like transaction histories.
Where data extraction is made easy already by APIs or feeds, Lockers will pull it that way. Where the data is appealing and the Locker community is motivated to do so, data connectors will be built.
Searching those data archives has been a technical challenge for many other startups, but the Locker team says it is trivial for them - because they only have to build search to scale across your personal data and the data you've been given permission to access by members of your network.
Search and sharing across a user's network will be powered by Miller's eagerly-anticipated open source P2P project called Telehash, described as "a new wire protocol for exchanging JSON in a real-time and fully decentralized manner, enabling applications to connect directly and participate as servers on the edge of the network."
Is This Just a Dream?
All of this is happening in a larger context that includes:
- A widespread understanding of the deep disruption and opportunities being presented by strategic analysis of data is emerging across global markets. "Analyzing large data sets--so called big data--will become a key basis of competition, underpinning new waves of productivity growth, innovation, and consumer surplus, as long as the right policies and enablers are in place," wrote giant consulting firm McKinsey Global Institute in a major new report this month on the topic.
- People are coming to realize that their personal digital data may be more complex than they thought when Mark Zuckerberg did a bait-and-switch with it more than a year ago. Now the Wall St. Journal is writing fear-mongering article after article called What They Know About You and multiple arms of the US Federal Government are taking action concerning data transmission, privacy and innovation.
- A number of startups focusing on individual ownership over data are emerging - personal data as a platform for software development, outside of the silos like Facebook or Microsoft, is an increasingly common aspiration. See Kaliya Hamlin's organization the Personal Data Ecosystem Collaborative Consortium for more examples.
A lot of people are watching The Locker Project and hoping it can succeed in creating a big new space for each of us individuals and for our free will in the data-centric future. There are other stakeholders who would have all this data used for nothing but the profit and power of the already powerful. The team assembling at Singly may be small, and the whole project may be too geeky for all but the geekiest among us, but it's shaping up to be a remarkable effort.