A Read-Write Web without Storage Silos

Situation Analysis

Everyone has a sense that something is amiss with the World Wide Web. Recent examples include concerns about topics such as:

  • Fake News
  • Data Silos
  • Privacy

Each of these issues, without exception, is related to the Write aspect of the originally conceived Read-Write World Wide Web, which has sputtered since its inception.

What’s the problem?

Due to the nature of current Web Applications, users of the Web do not have an ability to store documents to locations of their own choosing, without compromising one or more of:

  • Document ownership
  • Document access control
  • Privacy (which is, more or less, a combination of the above)

Basically, all roads lead to some kind of "document storage silo."

Today, storage services (provided by Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Amazon S3, Box, Rackspace, and others) can enable you to share documents via the Web. Unfortunately, these services generally both fail to offer granular document content-type controls, and extract a “Social Network” tax for document sharing. (The single exception is Amazon S3, which instead charges an up-front fee for use of its "buckets.")

You can test some basic operations against any of these services to better understand the silo problem:

  • Attempt to share a document with anyone — the email addresses of your contact(s), and their membership in the social network on which you’ve stored the document, are mandatory payment
  • Attempt to publish documents that are not plain text (content-type "text/plain"), HTML (content-type "text/html"), nor a few other "blessed" formats — these days, you can’t pull that off (except on Amazon S3)
  • Attempt to publish a Web Site — simply not an option (again, except on Amazon S3)

How can we solve the “document silo” problem?

Storage virtualization, which amounts to building a middleware layer above these storage services, can protect users from the shortcomings of those same services. This kind of virtualization enables:

  • Publication of any document type
  • Full support for content-type negotiation — re-enabling HTTP features previously obscured by these storage services
  • Fine-grained attribute-based access controls ("ABAC") — providing service users with powerful document access control construction capability

As usual, the document silo problem has everything to do with failures to exploit Web Application architecture and little-to-nothing to do with a lack of open standards aimed at preventing said problem.

Solution Example

Let’s imagine that we want to share annotations, comments, and the like about a post published via Medium, whereby the artifacts associated with these actions are persisted to a personal storage space (or Data Space) of one’s choosing.

Tools used in this example include:

Here’s a collection of screenshots that demonstrate how we can actually experience the Write dimension of the Read-Write Web, using existing Open Standards, without breaking what exists!

  1. Open Medium Post.
Initial Page Open

2. Click on the icon for the dokieli browser extension to open up its action menu. (Here, the icon is second to the right of the document address input field. This preliminary icon may change in future versions of the extension.)

Invocation of the Dokie.li extension

3. Put dokieli in “Review” mode by clicking that menu icon.

Entering “Review” Mode

4. Select a chunk of text. This will trigger presentation of a menu that will let you share, approve (or like), bookmark, or note (make an annotation).

Indicating I “Like” or “Approve of” what the selected sentence states

5. Click on “Share” to send a Share Notification about this document to selected members of your contact list. (Note — the contact list is dynamically derived via a WebID lookup that resolves to a document where you have social-oriented relations that associate you with those you claim to know.)

Contact list that will receive a Notification of my Share
Checkmark icons indicate successful delivery of each Notification

6. Following successful delivery of a Share Notification to my personal data space, here’s a conventional “files and folders” view that lets you explore this notification and other documents I’ve opted to share with the public.

View including a copy of the Notification I just sent, among many others, in my Personal ODS-Briefcase (I could have saved to a mounted Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, S3 bucket, etc!)
Using our Structured Data Sniffer to view my Annotations

Links

  • My Public Inbox that holds all my Notification Docs (output from Sharing, Bookmarking, Reviewing, Editing, etc., across the Web)
  • About dokieli — a powerful Read-Write Web tool

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