SELECT DISTINCT(email_address) FROM inbox ORDER by last_name;

1 minute read

This is sort of a rant, and sort of a call to action for people building the applications of the future. I am not too happy that my data is locked up inside of my online applications. I want more flexibility to upload, process, and retrieve it without the help or even the presence of the application. I want my data to outlive the application.

For example, here’s a problem — I really want to create a list of every person that I’ve ever corresponded with. It seems to me that a list like this would be a nice piece of root data that I could join with the data that I keep in other places and in other formats. I could think of a million and one useful things to do with this data, if I had it.

It seems to me that one of the next frontiers after we abolish desktop applications and switch to keeping everything online, are common data formats and a very strong separation of programs and data. I want programs that run online to be able to access the data that I keep online, regardless of who built the programs and which applications wrote the data.

These are the questions I have:

  • Why does my Inbox speak IMAP instead of SQL?
  • Why can’t I run some external facial recognition program on the pictures that I store at Smugmug?
  • Why can’t I join my list of LinkedIn contacts with the list of feeds that I keep at Syndic8?
  • Why don’t I automatically get to read the blogs of the people that I talk to the most via IM?
  • Why can’t I automatically attach to the Twitter feeds of the people that I seem to talk to the most?
  • Why is my Christmas card database totally separate from my Inbox?
  • Why can’t I locate the Amazon wishlists of my top email correspondents (but don’t think that sending me email will earn you a gift)?

I don’t want to import and export data from these applications. I want to store my data online. I want to run programs against the data. I don’t necessarily want my application vendors to sell me storage. Yeah, I want to use Amazon S3, but that’s because its the right solution, not because I work there.

Does any of this make sense? Anyone else feel the same way?