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It’s All About the Data

Circa 1993, I did some work for a company called TerraLogic (don't bother looking for it; it no longer exists). TerraLogic was among the first companies involved in building mapping software, at that time a C-language API to manipulate maps provided as a part of the development kit.

At that time, the CEO of the company explained to me that the decade of the 1980s was the decade of hardware in the PC community. The true quest was to build boxes that ran faster, all within the limitations inherent in the PC backplane and memory bus.

The decade of the 1990s was the decade of software, when companies struggled to code operating systems and applications that could take advantage of what the hardware had become.

The first decade of the 21st century, he concluded, would be the decade of data. Data would become the most important thing we could generate, and companies would compete not on the basis of hardware or software, but on the quantity and quality of their data.

Well, it turns out that he was half right. In the world of the mashup, data is king. But rather than competing on the basis of data, we seem to be sharing the data. What matters is how the application uses the data rather than the data itself.

Scott Deitzen, CTO of Zimbra and keynote speaker at FTP's WebBuilder 2.0 conference, gave an expansive view of mashups, demonstrating how data from within the same application can be used in innovative ways. For example, the Zimbra e-mail client can preview documents and images sent as attachments to e-mail messages by hovering over them, so that it's not necessary to open them in order to get an idea of what they contain.

The data is already available from within the e-mail client. We typically have to save the attachment and open it with another application in order to find out what it is. The combination of receiving and viewing within the e-mail client represents a mashup of data that was previously unavailable in a single application.

Posted by Peter Varhol on 12/04/2006 at 1:15 PM

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