“The Internet is not working to its full potential, not yet….The Internet and the World Wide Web are not the same thing. The Web is a presentation layer, but it’s not the only way. HTML is a perfectly good way to mark up information on web pages, but it’s not such a good way to mark up information about us. We need a language for people. We need a contextual markup language.”
-Gary Thompson, Co-Founder & CEO of the Consortium for Local Ownership and Use of Data (CLOUD)
If the thought leaders at CLOUD, an Austin-based organization have it right, the who, what, when and where of the Internet will be navigated using a language called CTML, which stands for “contextual markup language”.
CLOUD is an open source effort to rebuild the Internet around people, not web pages. Much like we tag categories on Flickr, CLOUD tags digital identities with a “Who tag”. This tag would connect you to everything, dropping barriers to entry everywhere, because you’d be tagged in every existing and future database.
In the physical world, people are connected by a contextual layer. Why shouldn’t it be the same in the semantic web? CTML would be used to write the connective “who tag” layer of the Internet. So, instead of Web 3.0, CLOUD would lead us into a Me. 1.0 era. “This is a different way of thinking about the creation of the web,” says Thompson who likens replacing the blue pages of phone books with blue links on the Internet.
Thompson believes answers to issues like privacy, security, data and transparency will be found in this new orientation. Thompson wants to find a way to keep data private, by having access pointers to the data that is strewn across the Internet. CLOUD is constructing CTML so that data privacy and security happens in the guts of the Internet and not all the way up at the web layer. The current presentational layer, e.g. Facebook, would become merely a “reputational layer”. “CTML should be easy to understand. We don’t want to deliver the standard to people, we want to create it with people,” says Thompson who previously worked at Apple in sales and marketing for 25 years.
The benefits of a CLOUD language are particularly obvious from a medical stand point as well as education and finance. In our overburdened medical centers, shouldn’t patients be able to share a digital tag with doctors, a tag into patient identities and medical histories? “We could find a cure for cancer faster if all this data was organized,” says Thompson, whose wife is a cancer survivor.
SWIFT, a 30-year-old standard platform used by 8,000 global banks, recently asked CLOUD to be its collaboration partner on the Digital Identity incubation project, which while Thompson is unable to describe details at this time, will likely have ramifications across the spectrum of financial services. Peter Vander Auwera, the Innovation Leader at SWIFT and a CLOUD advisory board member, wrote about the Digital Identity incubation project in a recent blog post:
“Connected companies: this is where we could talk about company culture and new organizational models that do away with the silo construction of most companies.
Our connected teams: how we create healthy team dynamics, how we collaborate, how we realize full potential with social cognition.
Our connected self: acting from our authentic strong self, this is more about personal and corporate values for the next decades…
Our connected value: new thinking about capitalism, social currencies, financial inclusion, P2P networking, money vs. value, the accounting for intangibles.”
CLOUD is 3 months from landing grants from foundation, angel investors and corporate partners. Thompson realizes he’s asking the average computer user to bend their brain quite a bit to take this all in. Imagining the Internet in such a way can be exhausting. Regardless of whether he gets this language to catch on, his hope is that the work he’s doing will help people better understand their digital lives, their data and how it’s being used. Is CTML the future? I’m not sure. But as we continue to upload more and more of our personal information into the Internet, onto platforms like Facebook, Quora and Google, it’s clear that we are coming closer to the tipping point of such a mind-shift.
Watch his TED Talk rom TEDxAustin here.
For more information, follow CLOUD on Twitter.