What is the Intention Byway?
The Intention Byway (IB) (Byway for short) is a way to move messages of intent between customers and companies, buyers and sellers, demand and supply, anywhere in any value chain or among a collection of participants. Its goal is maximizing the quality and volume of economic signaling by everyone, and expanding the range of economic activity that can take place in a networked marketplace.
The Byway’s virtues are also not just economic. They apply to all information offered or requested, making it ideal for journalism, and especially for relations between news sources and news media.
Doesn’t e-commerce today do that?
No, it does not. E-commerce today is a seller’s game, rigged to maximize signaling from supply to demand, especially by and within the walled gardens of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and every advertiser using the Internet. While this works very well, it also leaves money on the table in the form of demand signals that cannot be expressed or go unheard.
Worse, constantly looking for ways to improve supply-to-demand signaling has had the effect of limiting customer agency to what sellers alone allow. This has made e-commerce—and the Web itself—something of a feudal system in which customers, as mere serfs (which computing, along with the drug trade, calls “users”), are forced to interact with sellers in ways that are arcane to each seller, requiring as many unique logins, passwords, opt-ins, opt-outs and relationship systems as there are websites and services.
An indicator of this model’s limitations is that it does not even occur to most developers that a customer might want a shopping cart of her own to take from site to site—or might want a dashboard of her own to manage her relationships across many sellers, in the same way as CRM (customer relationship management) systems on the sellers’ side provide ways to manage relationships across many buyers. (Such a dashboard would be an ideal VRM—vendor relationship management—tool for customers. But we don’t have VRM yet because it’s too hard for developers or their investors to think outside the client-server box.)
Worse than that, all the agreements customers make with sellers are on terms provided by the seller alone, with records kept exclusively by those sellers or their third parties. The best anyone can do in this fecosystem is opt in or out of those terms, again separately for every website, app or service—and always with records kept only by those parties, so there is no way for the person to audit compliance. And people cannot even think about having terms of their own. This utterly fails to take advantage of the peer-to-peer and end-to end design of the Internet itself, which can support ways for buyers to scale messaging and relationships across many sellers.
Fortunately, it’s still early. E-commerce as we know it is also barely a quarter-century old. It is not a finished or final system, but rather a young one with many new ways to grow.
Can the Intention Byway work inside the familiar Web model that everyone knows and understands?
It is essential to recognize that the Internet supports freedom and independence for everyone and everything on it. But the Web, although it was designed by Tim Berners-Lee in the first place to provide that freedom, got deployed on a centralized mainframe model called client-server. This model, which might as well be called the serf-lord or the slave-master, is designed to give the client no more agency than what the server allows or provides.
At this stage in history, we are beginning to see that the limits of the client-server model are those put on the freedom, independence and agency of the individual.
The Byway is designed to work for free and independent actors from every end to any other end: free customers, free sellers, free suppliers, free intermediaries, free agency all around.
The client-server Web is not. Nor is the platform-based mobile device ecosystem we have with Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android devices. Both companies operate walled gardens for the apps that run on their platforms, and can only be obtained from their company stores.
This does not mean, however, that the workings of the Byway are invisible to browsers. It does mean, however, that we need new and better user interfaces than browsers alone can provide, given browsers’ obedience to the design constraints of the client-server model.
How exactly is the Byway distinctive and new?
The Byway is a pub/sub system. Rather than a client-server system such as the Web’s, it uses asynchronous intermediation, similar to the way email works. Unlike email, however, it is not limited to a single protocol or collection of them.
The Byway is also peer-to-peer between its ends, which in e-commerce will be typically between buyers and sellers. Intermediaries facilitating addressing and messaging of the Byway itself are also independent and substitutable. This also means there are not only opportunities for businesses at ends and in the middle of messaging paths, but also competition. This will incentivize and drive the growth of markets, as well as energy and activity within those markets.
This is why the whole Intention Byway is more of an economic model than a technical one.
Is surveillance possible on a Byway?
First, apps running on the Intentron have no incentive to spy on you, because it’s your own compute node anyway.
A concern would be for the app not to leak data outside the intentron, but the intentron firewall can easily catch that. Another concern would be for the app not to leak data outside the browser either, but that can also be caught and reflected in the app’s “reputation”, but if one wants take paranoia to another level (not necessarily a bad thing), you could imagine a browser that can only interact with the intentron, so it would be able to leak from the browser to any other destination.
What is the Intentron?
The Intentron is a cheap and simple computer designed to serve an individual in her role as a customer. It can store data, run apps (including algorithms), message personal intentions to whole market categories and respond to replies from sellers. It can either be a stand-alone computer in the customer’s own home (or wherever the customer happens to be), or it can be a virtual one in a cloud. The important thing is that it is the customer’s own, and isolated from intrusion over the Net by a firewall.
Can you see or use the Byway on a browser?
It is possible for a Intentron to have a browser view, and to interact with Web servers. But it will help to understand that, while a browser is used mostly to display what we call “content,” the payload of unseen stuff coming from servers is often immense, and filled with cookies, ads, and other stuff serving commercial interests on the server’s side that you might not share, and in most cases know nothing about. Rather than fight that, the Byway provides a better way for parties to get along and do business: one that roughly replicates the way parties behave in an open market or other social environment in the physical world. Browsers today are inadequate for all that. This is why the Intentron has its own user interface.
Will each app have its own address space?
Yes. Details forthcoming.
What operating system does the Intentron run?
It can run on any OS, but Linux is preferred and it’s tested mostly on Linux.
What is an Intentron likely to cost?
If it’s a physical device, probably less than the average ATM withdrawal. If it’s just software, it’s free.
What kind of firewall does it use?
The firewall that comes with the OS. Sitting on a LAN it also benefits from the network firewall (e.g. that provided by a router for a household LAN).
What are the differences between a buyer’s intentron and a seller’s?
The intentron is the same for all users. One’s role is determined by the combination of apps and algorithms used. One might be a buyer or a seller.
What is an addressing authority?
It is a service that assigns addresses. There are addresses where a app can ‘cast’ (on behalf of a user) and there are addresses ‘owned’ by the apps so they can receive messages (replies to ‘casts’). Apps use distinct address spaces, even if they belong to the same user. These address spaces are requested and assigned (guaranteed to be unique) by addressing authorities.
What is a messaging service provider? (Note: we called these messaging authorities earlier.)
A messaging service provider routes messages to locations provided within a URN.
What are URNs and how do they work?
URN stands for Uniform Resource Name, and is an established, known and widely adopted IETF standard, described in detail at that link to Wikipedia.
What will keep parties in the message forwarding path from snooping on a customer’s intent signals?
Messages can be public, intended for a public audience, and then this is not a concern. If messages are intended for a limited audience, they should be encrypted with a key only known to that audience. Encryption and decryption happen inIthe intentron before sending and after receiving. While this is the simplest protection method, there are others.
What is the role of personal identity?
There isn’t any, beyond what the buyer and seller choose to reveal to each other in private.
This is because the Byway is a way to pass messages between addresses rather than identities. (We need elaboration here, but this will do for now.)
Who pays who for what?
Intentron owners are customers of messaging service providers. That business is the concern of service providers, and not of the Byway itself. So, while a messaging service provider will route/forward messages on behalf of its customers, how they decide to authenticate and authorize their customers is their business.
How will you attract participants (customers, sellers, intentron and app makers and retailers, messaging and addressing authorities) to this whole system?
We are starting small, working with localities and topical interest groups, first to sandbox each part of the model, and then to scale up as adoption grows.
Which, if any, participants in the Intention Byway can you live without while you scale up the model?
None, really. They are all required. App stores are the only parties not needed immediately. Of course the ISPs and DNS are also required participants.
Explain how publishing and subscribing will work.
The simplest analogy is mailing lists, but it’s not buyers and sellers who send/subscribe. It’s their apps. Buyers and sellers only see the service provided by the app, not the mechanics behind it.
Given the number of different products and services in the world, and variations within each of those, will this cause a vast ontology with an infinitude of channels? And how will the whole thing be made sensible to both buyers and sellers?
They don’t care, they use apps. Apps do all that.
What systems are there, or do you see forming, for how customers can make sense of all their relevant intention data? Thinking specifically about contacts, calendars/scheduling, health, finances, possessions/insurance, and records of receipts, contact history, and agreements.
In the current platform-dominated Web-based e-commerce world, there is no incentive for the development of tools for those needs. With the Intention Byway, there are lots of incentives, for both buyers and sellers. Buyers need to get full control of their lives (which currently they do not), and sellers need to reduce the waste and cost on their side as well.
How is it different than Solid?
Actually, we would love for this to work with Solid, so the data your Intentron uses is in your Solid pod.