Yesterday’s announcement by Microsoft of the Simple Sharing Extensions (SSE) to RSS made a lot of news. Bloggers chimed in everywhere too, which means I am late for the party. I had a quick read of the draft spec last night, and read Ray Ozzie’s blog posting on the topic.
The problem SSE is solving has been around for ever. In the mid-1990’s Suze Woolf’s team at the Microsoft Home was building scenarios with multiple calendars and contact lists, anticipating that today’s world of hyper-connected individuals and families would arrive. Microsoft was thinking about synchronizing one user’s devices to a central store at the time, but there was no technology solution available to enable the vision of synchronizing a mesh of multiple users as Suze’s team wanted to do.
Fast forward to today, and the problem of synchronization has multiplied exponentially. Not only do we have the need to synchronize users to devices, and users to other users, but also databases to databases. And how about synchronization as a mechanism for keeping software up to date?
SSE has the potential to democratize synchronization, and unleash a whole new wave of applications, the same RSS democratized syndication. How much easier would it have been to build Plaxo, for instance, if this technology were available? At iotum, this would have helped us a lot. iotum’s Relevance Engine relies on being able to obtain synchronized calendar and contact information in order to be able to contextually screen user phone calls. We looked at multiple solutions to this problem, including buying commercial software. The better commercial solutions started at price points in the $60,000 range, plus a per-source connector fee. Not the kind of dollars that a startup can drop on an SDK. So we built a very simple solution of our own to do one-way push, which is all we need at the moment. A standardized solution for building and consuming synchronization feeds would have made a dramatic difference to our development plans.
I’m very excited by the potential here.