timothy falconer's semantic weblog
Big Fractal Tangle

all-hands interop

Everything needs to work with everything else. Can we at least agree on this? There’s nothing worse than using a piece of software only to regret it later because it won’t play nice with others. Even with things as simple as contacts and calendars, it’s incredible how little we can interoperate.

How many of us keep our old contact manager around because it does certain things better than our new one, like printing labels or envelopes? Why can’t we use both programs simultaneously without worrying about file formats or import/export? Just how many people start completely over rather than figure out how to transfer their data to the new program? Isn’t it a bit amazing that we’ve grown used to this?

Not all application areas are so insular. Can you imagine if the graphics world had to contend with the same kind of vendor lock-in? All day, I open my PNGs, PSDs, and JPGs in a half-dozen apps, making changes with the program that suits my current need. Why can’t I do the same with my address book, or calendar, or photo library? Why would *anyone* spend days and weeks tagging their photos with a program like Photoshop Album or Picasa or Jasc, knowing they’ll be locked into those programs for the long haul, since there’s no easy way use their data with other programs.

We decided months ago that we’re gonna bend over backwards to interop with everyone. We want you to be able to open Tidepool to gather photos from your camera, open iPhoto to remove some red-eye and rotate a few, open Tidepool to do some tagging, open Photoshop Album to see those tags, etc. We’d rather compete on merit than hold our customers hostage.

Whether we’ll be able to pull it off is another matter, especially given the proprietary vibe of most software companies. But we’re prepared to do our level best to shame the rest into opening their formats or, even better, encouraging everyone to use open standards like we’re doing. After all, what could be more semweb than all-hands interop?

Everything needs to work with everything else. Agreed?

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