MyData Madrid, December 12th 2019
Introduction to Solid Search: A vision shifting the e-commerce search towards decentralization
On December 12th, I had the pleasure of being invited to participate in the MyData Madrid Meetup, the local hub of the MyData Global organization in Madrid. The event was held at the wonderful IE Business School.
On this occasion, the subject of the Meetup was to discuss:
“Users in control of their data? Business models around consent and privacy of data”
I was invited to talk about the Solid project in general and more specifically to showcase live a comparison between a use case example of the contextualized search services delivered at present day at empathy.co and what would be the experience of a custom ‘Solid Search’ for e-commerce, showing some mockups in order to let the attendees at the Meetup understand this concept.
Let me summarize and introduce the vision we have at empathy.co regarding this concept:
Nowadays, the e-commerce search is centralized. There are different examples out there where millions of users belong to a specific search service platform. Just think about the ‘big ones’ like Amazon, eBay or Walmart search services to understand it better.
They have their own search service based on a huge owning silo (or Pod, Personal Online Datastore) with millions of users and data on it. Users stick to these different platforms, losing their rights to data privacy, portability and transparency. Users live in walled gardens without realizing it.
With this centralized architecture, where web services and data are connected, the actual market competition is based on personal data control. The more data you possess, the more income you may generate.
At present day, Empathy search and contextual recommendation services deliver a custom search experience with highly relevant, unique and personalised results to the users from our clients.
Unlike the ‘big ones’, Empathy Search services offer custom results (one Pod for a thousand users), based on the user and query context APIs delivered. Most of these contextualised affinities lie within Empathy’s cloud and local processing.
In the future, we aim to change this; we envision e-commerce search shifting towards decentralization.
At empathy.co we aspire to build an Empathy Search over the Solid project specification and ecosystem, where search and contextualization services would be based on the decentralization of data stored into Pods and where user rights and data control prevail.
With this vision the present e-commerce market competition would be moved into a new model based on service quality instead of data ownership.
To illustrate this point in a brief example, imagine two users using the Empathy Search service over Solid:
Within the same query, they will be prompted with independent and unique results coming directly from their own Pod context preferences and profile. Furthermore, the user profile will be automatically loaded from their own digital identity (WebID) login, making it portable and reusable to other Solid-compatible applications.
The related tags and results presented to the users will be personalised based on the user context stored into each user’s Pod (last purchases, brand affinities, gender affinities, etc.).
There won’t be any local processing. The application logic of a contextualized search service will reside in the application itself, and data generated will be stored into the distributed Pods. This is how the Solid project tries to technically remedy the decoupling of data storage from applications and give users more control over their data.
Lastly, I showed some static mockup examples (desktop and mobile) of a Pod browser.
We think that if we want to see this succeed, the interaction with Pods needs to be a joyful experience: something that the users see as a projection of themselves, something easy and uncomplicated, something they would want to share among friends, even on social media. We aspire to build a Pod set of interactions and cool visualizations that give the user an evocative digital identity.
Thanks to Sergio Maldonado, Bernardo Crespo and Gam Dias for their great experience (I learned a lot for this session!) and their good work moderating the round table discussion along with the attendees, who came and assisted the event despite the fact it was one of the coldest and rainiest days I could remember from all my visits to the capital.
An extended summary of the event can be found here (in Spanish).
If you’re interested, you can find the slides of my talk here.