Right now we live in a fairly free society.
In terms of technology we are in a new era of shared knowledge. Open Source is the way to go and many companies are opening up their code to a community of hackers/evangelists/engineers and the like who are eager to redefine, re-purpose and manipulate data in ways never previously imagined.
Despite this fairly open ecosystem that we live in there are still major players that do not want the free-spirited liberal atmosphere to be ruling the masses. Steve Jobs is famous for his late night Gawker correspondence in which he said he wanted “Freedom from Porn” and could only achieve this by a closed proprietary system.
Tonight I was having a little epiphany about how awesome it would be if a site I visit (here and there - to be disclosed at a later date) could be made more useful with an open API. If I had access to it I think I could perform some pretty awesome search functionality. I also think that given this key to their data I would be able to mine it and find some very interesting trends. But this is their proprietary data. However, this doesn’t mean that the data can not be acquired through tangential means, it just makes it harder. Anecdotal evidence is helpful, but hard data is even better.
The real reason why I am up at 4 am is that I think other people would be helped with greater access to information.
A couple years back I was on a project and we had to “acquire” user information for a about 20 thousand users across about 45 international networks. Each network was password protected and required login credentials. The program was nothing to crazy, as long as you had a password to the site you could see every single users email address, first/last name, blog/website (if listed), number of site visits, number of postings. With an open API this would have been really easy to acquire, but since each one of these networks were closed and even within the network there were no search functions you had to step back from the system and scratch your head a little.
This was nothing illegal granted, but it was a good exercise.
Now here we are in 2011 and the world is open. We are seeing a backlash against this with companies like Diaspora triumphant in starting closed networks, but open-sourced and public (although your network is decentralized and private). Its the uber-cool thing to do kids.
Late night rant almost done. Oh and Free Julian Assange.