Hugh Winkler holding forth on computing and the Web

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Microcontent Three-Way Processses

We're all going to have to package our services as microcontent (via Sean McGrath). For those of us in the business of delivering "two-way" data services, our webapps will wither. Good!

Now we have to figure out how to get paid. I can deliver some critical information to you via Atom or RSS. And you have some client subscribing, consuming, and processing that data on your behalf. I need to get paid by subscription, or by the piece. I'll no longer have a webapp where you subscribe or agree to purchase single items, and where I meter your consumption. Aggregators, and successor services like them, will have to do that. So we need extensions to APP to compose three-way transactions.

So you will initiate a subscription via your aggregating service. I'm not neccessarily talking about a feed aggregator; this might be some specialized service in a vertical, like stock quotes. It will collect your personal and payment information. It will contact me to subscribe you. It will send me your PayPal, or whatever, payment authorization. I will respond with approval or denial. When retrieving information on your behalf, your aggregator definitely has to tell me you are retrieving that information, so I can authorize it. Contrast to current practice: aggregators retrieve a feed on behalf of hundreds of anonymous users. And we have to address the issue of whether I trust the aggregator service to tell me the truth, or whether we can design protocols preventing it paying for one subscription when it has sold 20.

To make that happen, we'll need a microcontent business process specification that can compose three-way transactions. And it has to be as simple and transparent as RSS and Atom. I'm not talking about BPSS, although there's a lot to be learned there.

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