Thoughts on micro-content, metadata and…

Thoughts on micro-content, metadata and trends.

My investors, my readers and a variety of other people keep trying to get me to explain what I’m interested and why I’m interested in it. Here’s a first shot at this. Thanks to Steph, Kevin Marks and others on #joiito for a first pass edit. I’ve put it on the wiki as well so we can continue to work on this.

Context instead of content

Attention is moving from commercially produced content to dynamic or contextual content. An example of this is the shift of Japanese youth spending from CD purchasing to karaoke to cell phone messaging. CDs let you passively consume content produced by companies. Karaoke is more interactive – you are part of the content. With Cell phone messaging, the customer creates the content. From a copyright viewpoint, CDs are strongly protected. Karaoke is less protected and usually licensed in bulk, and messaging has very few copyright issues. With 20 million camera phones in Japan alone, text messaging is adding photo sharing, making conversations look more and more like content publishing. Small morsels of content, created by users and shared is called micro-content, as opposed to expensive commercially produced and protected content.

Networked consumer electronics devices will make PCs less relevant

With each new wave of computing devices, from mainframes to mini-computers to PCs to game consoles to consumer electronics devices, there is a huge increase in volume causing a dramatic decrease in cost. The users and application developers also shift to these new platforms for better performance and smaller sizes. We still have mainframes and mini-computers but they are less relevant. PCs will become less relevant as the number of consumer electronics devices with networking features increases. Eventually digital cameras, phones, TVs, PVRs and other devices will all be connected to the Internet. People will be publishing, sharing, viewing and hearing content from the Internet without having a PC. They will be as irrelevant to consumers as mainframes.

New open standards for micro-content and metadata

The third important trend is the blossoming of open standards built for creating, publishing, syndicating and viewing/hearing micro-content. Open standards have been around for a long time, but the weblog community is making them popular. These open standards are currently being tested and developed primarily for PCs, but many of the standards could be used in consumer electronics devices, allowing smaller developers to write applications and web services for consumer electronics devices. This is very similar to the way in which TCP/IP allowed the developer community to write software for communications leapfrogging the large telecommunications companies. There are many standards for consumer electronics devices, but they are complex and mired in committees, rather like CCITT’s x.25 standard that TCP/IP quickly replaced in many applications.


As broadband becomes cheaper and computing power increases, everything we’re learning and building around text micro-content and metadata will be useful in dealing with multimedia micro-content and metadata. Because it is more difficult to extract meaning from images and audio, metadata about this content will become vital.

So what’s going to happen?

Microsoft will continue to dominate the desktop, but it will become less relevant as consumer electronics companies embrace open standards and use Internet web services and applications to make consumer electronics devices rich with content. The content will be micro-content such as photos, audio clips, video, text, location information and presence information of friends. Digital rights management and copyright will become less relevant. Organizing your network of friends and your network of trust become more important, so that you publish to the people you wish to hear you and you are able to sort information which is relevant to you. These trust networks will require privacy and security as well as methods of managing and using the networks for a variety of applications.

As web services and metadata create a more and more decentralized and semantic web, searching will become more decentralized and contextual and less about html page scraping and one dimensional page rank.

In the future, you should always be able to see the status of your friends (if they choose to let you), create any kind of content you wish to share or communicate and publish it easily from any device. You should be able to find and view/hear any content you have access to, using your network of trust, location, keywords and timing to search for the information. The boundaries between email and web publishing will become blurred and you will be having conversations with the web.

Key Technologies:

  • Creating and managing identities while protecting privacy
  • Creating and managing networks of friends and trust
  • Searching metadata and creating context for metadata
  • Design and interface for publishing and viewing micro-content
  • Syndication standards and technologies
  • Network infrastructure to enable location and mobility
  • Technologies to move and share micro-content, especially as it grows larger
  • Web services that interact with micro-content and the physical world such as photo printing, purchasing of real world products, connecting people, etc.

The cutting edge:

Audio blogging (Audblog), mobile picture blogging with location information (Tokyo Tidbits), personal information and information about your friends in web pages (FOAF), machine readable copyright notices allowing micro-content aggregation and sharing (Creative Commons), Amazon book information and affiliate information embedded in blogging tools ( TypePad ), convergence of email and micro-content syndication (Newsgator), searching for micro-content based on context (Technorati)

By Joichi Ito [Joi Ito’s Web]