The universal, self-publishing, loosely-coupled personal directory, Part 4

* Tying up the loose ends

In this fourth and final installment of our look into the SMBmeta initiative put forward by Dan Bricklin, I'd like to explore the possibility of extending the concept to other than business objects.

Bricklin proposed ( SMBmeta as an online "yellow pages" type directory for neighborhood businesses to be able to connect with potential customers quickly and easily without needing the services of a programmer or Web master to create the necessary data.

The Burton Group's Jamie Lewis says of the initiative: "SMBmeta is a self-organizing directory. In contrast with X.500 and its descendants, SMBmeta is very decentralized, pushing responsibility and data ownership all the way out to the edge. It makes data aggregation a loosely coupled operation that anyone can perform. Pretty cool."

A self-organizing directory, a loosely coupled datastore. If every object (user, business, printer, coffee pot, whatever) was online and had an entry so they could share information publicly then finding people, places or things online could be much less frustrating than it currently is. Add in the Affirmation Authority proposed by Bricklin in the SMBmeta Ecosystem ( and there's a way to ensure the truthfulness of the data as well as a potential for even tighter authentication and authorization (if you tie it to the SAML proposal, for instance).

The Universal, Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI) standard, of which Version 2 was ratified last week by OASIS, is widely seen as failing to deliver on its promise of a universal service locator tool. It is gaining strength within the enterprise, though, as a way for users to locate services on their intranet.

Novell's .DIR global Top Level Domain (gTLD) initiative ( proposed that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) create a managed domain that would hold directory information for any current domain (e.g., would hold the directory info for The domain authority would have to approve all entries, ensuring truthfulness of the data in the resulting federated directories.

Microsoft's Passport (see also Hailstorm and ".Net MyServices") has been fraught with security and privacy problems almost since its inception. Not only will it not fly in its current incarnation but it remains to be seen if Microsoft could ever market an identity service for the Internet.

UDDI isn't working, .DIR wasn't approved and Passport is a laughing stock when it's not a security nightmare. None of these solutions take into account the needs of individual users. What's needed is a federated, even peer-to-peer, directory of all interested objects on the 'Net which is both loosely coupled and self-organizing. Throw in some security, a good authentication method, possibly some minimal authorization tools and there just might be some interest. 

SMBmeta has the possibility of being the platform to use. While a search on Google for "smbmeta.xml" only turns up a handful of files, the intriguing thing about the initiative is that anyone can create the file, place it in the root of a Web server and just wait for a spider to pick it up. What's needed is a presentation for the data - another Google service, perhaps. Or maybe, the chance for another search engine to finally get a leg up on my neighbors in Mountain View. AltaVista, are you listening?

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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