Thursday, September 29, 2005

Information Commons: A bright star for the future of information

September 27, 2005
-Posted by Chris Jablonski

In the eyes of its creators, the World Wide Web was never designed to take on the role as the be-all end-all architecture for a truly distributed global information system. But while large vendors, standards groups and technologists have grown dependent on the Web and treat it that way, some researchers are taking a revolutionary approach to the problem and addressing it at the very core of information design. A newly published white paper from Harbor Research (a firm specializing in pervasive computing), entitled Designing the Future of Information, The Internet beyond the Web looks at two initiatives—the 'Information Commons” of Maya Design, and 'Internet Zero' from MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms.

The Information Commons is a universal database to which anyone can contribute, and which liberates information by abandoning relational databasing and the client-server computing model, according to the white paper. It has been under development at Maya Design for over 15 years as the result of a $50 million research contract from several federal agencies, including DARPA, to pursue 'information liquidity,' or the flow of information in distributed computing environments. Their goal is to build a scalable information space that can support trillions of devices.

I spoke today with Josh Knauer, director of advanced development at MAYA Design about the Information Commons and how it is progressing. According to Knauer, Maya (which stands for Most Advanced Yet Acceptable) is using P2P technology—in the sense of information sharing and not file sharing—to link together repositories of public and private datasets in the public information space created by Maya. These data and data relationships are stored in universal data containers called 'u-forms,' which are then coded with a UUID, or universally unique identifiers. These are the basic building blocks of the company's Visage Information Architecture (VIA), which allows data repositories to effortlessly link or fuse together to achieve 'liquidity' (the paper has more details)."