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David K. Levine Headshot

Googazon: The Web 3.0

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Will the next Richard Stallman, Linus Torvalds or Jimmy Wales please step forward? Because I don't want information at my fingertips -- I want action at my fingertips, and I mean my fingertips.

The Web 2.0 is all about the big providers: Google, Amazon, Facebook, Ebay, Paypal. They gift us with search and services, they make available products, they enable us to get in touch with our friends. And while they face competition, they operate for their benefit not ours. They own our identities -- the credentials we use to pay for goods and services. Only Facebook provides a platform that enables user extensions, and only within strict limitations. The big providers give us the services they want and that they approve of. Why can't you download your entire Kindle library from Amazon with a single button? Google abandoned Google Reader -- what service that we have come to depend on will they abandon next? Google Voice? Where will that leave people who have grown dependent on that service?

The big providers give us information; buying; delivering -- even with Amazon's Mechanical Turk a market for labor. But they aren't integrated. There are many services they don't provide. We have still to wait in lines; to fill out forms; to print and deliver them. Our world isn't integrated with Turbotax -= and the U.S. government is blocked from providing online tax services by the Turbotax lobbyists.

What we need for the Web 3.0 is Googazon. A kind of Wikipedia of goods and services. A Google, Amazon, Facebook, Ebay, Paypal, and more that belongs to us. A place to build a reputation. An open extensible integrated platform that small businesses - and large - can plug into to provide us with goods and services. A place where sellers, workers, service providers happily compete for our business. Forms that record our experiences and share them with the community so the next person who fills out the form knows the quirks and tricks to success. Screen-scrapers to integrate those foolish enough to resist. Software that will be us -- that will act as our agent. A guarantee for the long run where the software is free (as in freedom), access is open, and competitors are allowed and even encouraged.

The heart of any commercial system is trust: sellers want to know that they will get paid and buyers want to know that they will get the goods and services they paid for. The key to trust is reputation -- and the crucial service of certifying your reputation is what your Amazon, Google, and Paypal accounts do for you. But: they own your accounts and your data. How is Amazon able to charge a 15 percent commission on sales through its Market Place? Because they provide their sellers with access to your account information and you with access to the seller's reputation. In Googazon the principle is: your reputation and your data belong to you. You provide your information to whom you like and deny it to those you dislike. In Googazon the big providers can't charge for access to your information and buyers and sellers are free to compete for your business.

Make no mistake -- Googazon has the potential for revolution. Imagine that next time you have to get a dozen permits to remodel your apartment or register your car all the forms are online and when you go to fill them in the experience of all the other form-fillers pop up to help you. Where there is a link to hire someone -- with proven reliable experience -- to take the forms and wait in line for you. Where contractors bid for the job. Where corrupt government officials are exposed for what they are.

Or take it the other way around: I have unemployed friends who work through casual networks at small tasks ranging from babysitting dogs to caring for the elderly. It isn't much of a business -- reputation is word of mouth, and advertising doesn't exist. Why can't they establish their reputation and their business on Googazon? Why can't you click an app on your phone to find a reliable dog-sitter -- or babysitter? Why can't a reliable person with a few days between jobs and in need of a few dollars not pick up some work from an equally reliable stranger? Why isn't this integrated with the rest of our lives?

And why can't the software driving Googazon be driven by the free software model of GNU/Linux and Firefox? Why can't the user with programming skills contribute to plugin modules to make it work better for all of us? Why can't there be communities of common interest developing and integrating this software in a common framework? In short: why don't we take back the Internet?

So I say again: let the next Stallman, Torvalds or Wales step up and build us Googazon -- the user driven Web 3.0.