iTunes and cutting through the cacophony of networks

We have too many networks right now. Let the Internet combine them, but watch out for the result.

Tim O'Reilly writes a thoughtful piece on what we can learn from iTunes, returning to a familiar theme for him: the Internet-enabled address book and software above the level of a single device. The general point is that software should be architected to be Internet-aware and, one step further, should make useful connections between different, disparate applications/data sources.

It's more than a programming language designed to run on a wide range of operating systems and hardware platforms. That was Java. This is now.

In the Internet age, we really shouldn't be limited by silly things like software monopolies, not when the world has given way to a potentially more troubling and much more powerful monopoly of data management:

iTunes needs to work together more seamlessly with other applications like iPhoto, and the internet-enabled address book I keep hoping for. Right now, when you sync your phone, you have both applications open up, competing for your attention. As more data needs to be synced to the phone, you don't want this to turn into a cacophony....

I can't wait till more device manufacturers realize that you don't need to build the application for managing a device into the device itself. The game is richer than that. Let the device do what it does best; let the internet do what it does; and use the PC to help manage the relationship between the two.

This is the promise and peril of the Internet era. Do it well and billions come to your door, as has been the case for Google. Do it poorly and, well, Tim won't be writing about you. :-)

The promise is to synchronize the myriads of networks - social and communications-based - competing for people's limited attention with one big network, the Internet. That's the peril, too. For the vendor who can do that there's a lot of money to be made, and a lot of voices to be silenced. This isn't always a bad thing - I don't really need twenty silo'd social networks. (Heck, I hardly need one.)

But it's bad if it results in the same kind of consolidation that Tim elsewhere says is already coming to the Web 2.0 world. It has barely begun and already we have winners? That's frightening.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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