Making Data Portability suck less; Not the phrase I would have used to headline my web site but for GNIP, (apparently pronounced guh-nip), that’s what they choose to describe their mission. GNIP is a start-up that obeys the increasingly popular start up technology model of providing a horizontal service across the width of the web to gather/access everything, then selling a service of providing the ability to take a focus out of this breadth to fulfil the particular specific narrow and deep request of a particular user, or enterprise.
What seems to be noticeable is that the founders of all of these start-ups have been heavily involved in a previous Web 2.0 start-up and it’s their experience in Web 2.0 that allows them to spot the needs ahead of most people. In this case it’s Eric Marcoullier of MyBlogLog fame, but what I find noticeable about all of these start-ups is that they all make the explosion in size into an asset that can be made usable. Given all the fear stories about the web becoming unusable because it will clog with too much content that’s pretty important!

Back to GNIP which is currently only offering one service, albeit a core one to the issue, but is promising within 90 days – from 1st July 2008 – a further range of increasingly valuable services. The current service aggregates all the updates from a wide range of participating sites such as Flickr, Digg, Del.icio.us, etc, you merely ask GNIP for the latest updates on the chosen topic instead of having to visit each site individually. Pretty good for someone like me trying to stay in touch with everything! But this is just the public free end of what is actually an ambitious play to become a paid feed to enterprise ‘apps’ that require inputs from all over the web in different formats about the latest information, and changes.
The founders claim a number of less obvious benefits too, such as decreasing web traffic by their consolidation of queries, ( I am not so sure about this as surely their updating mechanisms consume bandwidth, but guess at the level of an enterprise it might reduce pressure on the Internet Gateway), but what about standardisation of metadata to even out the differences from site to site, user to user? That sounds very useful as even our internal Capgemini use of tagging in our Web 2.0 based knowledge management system has its troubles here. The promise is spelt out with the beginnings of a range of similar services that deal with various forms of data translations that end up with a single user, or app, selectable feed.
GNIP expects to be paid for the use these higher value services which are accesses through its APIs, so as with all these second generation Web 2.0 start-ups the monetisation model is there from the beginning. Certainly in the case of data portability and the increasing interest on the topic as the World opens up and interchanges more and more content this seems like a strong commercial proposition. Other planned services cover similar consolidation and translation plays such identity discovery and consolidation across various web sites, etc.
Last final thought? Actually it’s several; firstly GNIP and others are proving that there are real commercial models for web 2.0 beyond everything being funded by advertising; secondly the hype on everything becoming Software as a Service, SaaS, might now start to show more realism in the consuming of these types of ‘services’ which are used in a very different manner to conventional Enterprise Software, and thirdly Microsoft using the term Software and Services, S&S, is starting to make more sense in the context of these types of ‘services’ if you think what you might want to ‘buy’ for your own use from them, or other software vendors, that is fed by these sorts of services.