Who is JS-Kit?

October 14, 2008

The news today is that JS-Kit just closed a $3.6m round of funding and I have joined the company as a Strategic Advisor.

I’d like to take this moment to explain who JS-Kit is, what it could be, and why I decided to get involved.

First, I get offered a lot of advisory roles or full time jobs. It’s always very tempting to help entrepreneurs pursuing their dreams.

The reality is, however, between my company Faraday Media, my work at the DataPortability project, APML Workgroup, Media 2.0 Workgroup and other projects there simply isn’t enough bandwidth left to give the attention required.

The JS-Kit opportunity is different. When I first met Khris Loux (The CEO of JS-Kit) it was clear very quickly that we had a unique connection and a shared vision for a distributed Personal Web. As a result I have broken my own rule and accepted the offer to consult with/advise the company on a formal basis. It will be a significant commitment and take up a large part of my time.

The company he has quietly built over the last 2 years reflects our shared vision and its success is unmatched in the marketplace. With more than 550,000 registered sites, JS-Kit is the largest provider of light-weight plug in social features on the web. More importantly, though, it has no destination site. A philosophical choice that allows it to execute on a strategy of powering the edge to get more social – and more personal – without siphoning traffic back to a proprietary center.

JS-Kit technology powers some of the biggest sites on the web – with more to be announced soon.

This combination of scale and a focus on the edge makes the company uniquely placed to build something very special.

There are a number of challenges ahead for the company though – challenges of which Khris and the team are all too aware.

The name is not great! It was the name of a prototype product that became very successful very quickly despite not being ready for prime time so it sorta stuck. Blame Nick Gonzalez for writing it up in Techcrunch only days after it was put live for preliminary testing (just kidding I love Nick in a manly platonic sort of way)

Adoption is easy, but customization (it’s possible to make the widgets unrecognizable from the default style) is far too hard to do for average users.

The design is Web 1.0 at best. The site, brand and products lack a cohesive visual language and a modern look and feel.

These are just some of the things I will be helping to change over the coming months. The funding round also allows the team to execute on these opportunities quickly. These changes will be a precursor to a much broader strategy that we hope will delight users, empower publishers and surprise the industry.

In the mean time though, Faraday Media is still very much alive and kicking with both my involvement and the involvement of my best friend and co-founder Ashley Angell. I believe the core technologies developed in its labs will change the web. Faraday Media and JS-Kit will continue their business development activities and my role will help to shepherd the process.

So too is the DataPortability project under the stewardship of the stellar new steering group lead by none other than Daniela Barbosa.

So in this time of Economic woes, failing companies, staff layoffs and uncertain times I am proud and honored to be part of a team that is continuing to have a sustainable and positive impact on the web and actually growing the opportunity for a distributed personal ecosystem.

So now I’m involved, I’d like to encourage you to try out the tools on your sites and blogs and send me feedback directly. I’d like to start a conversation with you to improve the company and the web together.

Also follow Me, Khris and Nancy on Twitter!


Coverage has already started

Open Web Foundation

July 23, 2008

Tomorrow, David Recordon will announce the Open Data Foundation at OSCON Open Web Foundation at OSCON.

As a co-founder of the DataPortability project, I’d like to be the first to welcome the Open Web Foundation to the conversation that was crystallized by the project early this year.

It seems like the foundation is well placed to provide a much needed level of oversight and legal protection for fledgling open standards. These standards will ultimately contribute to the ‘data portability’ vision of an inter-operable, standards-based web of data. In our investigations of the various standards, this has been a key concern for us and we feel encouraged people are stepping up to remove this potential roadblock. there is enormous value in getting more people involved in working towards a vision we all share, and for that reason I am genuinely excited by this development.

Two points to note however. I have always had concerns about using the term ‘Open’ when describing data – it sometimes invokes fears of a lack of privacy. Also, exclusive councils are somewhat of a dichotomy which don’t seem to be in keeping in dealing with ‘open’ technologies. Both these concerns, however, should not overshadow the value of a group of people working towards a vision we all share. For example I’d hope that the group is open to standards not developed by the founding individuals and companies.

We believe that governance is at the center of making these kinds of initiatives truly open and aligned with our shared visions of an open web. As such the DataPortability Project has ratified a radical new governance model that allows maximum participation while maintaining agility and accountability. This consolidates months of experience in managing a large, high-profile community, to go beyond a “benelovent dictatorship” or smoke filled rooms towards total transparency and community participation.

I have personally received a number of requests from other groups to learn from our model. With this in mind, I think there would be value in abstracting our governance model and providing it as a sort of ‘open source’ implementation of Roberts Rules for distributed, asynchronous groups that other global and transparent projects could use and contribute to.

Further, as per our governance framework, we have introduce a deliverable focused “Taskforce” model, whereby anyone in the community can create a Taskforce that fits with the goals of the DataPortability project to promote data portability in the community. Some Taskforces can be made official by the Steering group and will, as such, become responsible for official deliverables of the DataPortability Project.

So far a ‘Vision’ Taskforce has been created to describe our definition of ‘Data Portability’. Also a ‘Status Grid’ Taskforce to develop and maintain a grid of vendor compliance with various open philosophies. This was inspired by Marc Canter at the Data Sharing Summit and will be lead by Daniela Barbosa. We expect a number of new Taskforces to spring up with the common goal of promoting data portability throughout the technical and mainstream communities.

It’s exciting times for the web. We are watching the dawn of the data web emerge before our eyes, which is finally bringing together multiple efforts under simple memes to capture the attention of the mainstream. It will have as profound an impact on the world as the document web and social web before it.

I look forward to continuing the journey with all of you.

Daniela has done an amazing job with the May DataPortability Project report. Be sure to check it out.

I’d like to personally welcome Jive Software to the DataPortability Project. I am personally excited to work with their CTO Matt Tucker who is also the Chair of the XMPP Foundation. Together, Jive, XMPP and other vendors and standards will work together to deliver the promise of data portability to enterprise applications.

Welcome to the discussion!

MySpace has officially joined the DataPortability project and will work with us to turn their ‘data availability’ push with the DataPortability Best Practices

Check out the news

As you may have heard on Techcrunch today, Michael Arrington, Heather Harde and the TechCrunch team are donating USD$6,625 to the DataPortability project.

I’d like to add a public thanks to them for this kind gesture in help us to host and encourage the data portability discussion and the eventual DataPortability set of Best Practices.

Since the announcement we have some additional offers of sponsorship for the project and I will be getting back to you all as soon as I can.

We will be setting up a legal entity and a council to decide how the money is used. As usual we will be keeping everything as transparent as possible and making sure the community has maximum input.

Today Microsoft takes another big step towards Data Portability by announcing their Contacts API for their Live Platform.

To quote John Richards, Director of Live Platform (an active participant in the DataPortability project) from the press release:

“To tackle the issue of contact data portability it is important to reconcile the larger issue of data ownership.  Who owns the data, like email addresses in a Windows Live Hotmail address book?  We firmly believe that we are simply stewards of customers’ data and that customers should be able to choose how they control and share their data. We think customers should be able to share their data in the most safe and secure way possible, but historically this openness has been achieved largely through a mechanism called “screen-scraping,” which unduly puts customers at risk for phishing attacks, identity fraud, and spam. Now with the Windows Live Contacts API, we have provided an alternative to “screen-scraping” that is equally open but unequivocally safer and more secure for customers. “

This is another strong example of how committed Microsoft is to data portability in general and the DataPortability project specifically.

As things take shape in the DataPortability Project, we will have specific recommendations for Microsoft and all other vendors to make sure that their APIs are seamlessly inter-operable with other DataPortability enabled applications.