Thursday, March 19, 2009

Numbers on the web and Recombinant Growth

In a comment to my recent blog post on timetric and open scalar data, Sean Park points to hypernumbers:
    Giving numbers URIs is something that Hypernumbers is trying to do. Will be interesting to see if they get traction. They are a bit stealthy so not sure how they are progressing since winning seedcamp in 2007.

I'm hoping that soon now, the number of entities live in the business of giving numbers homes on the Web will reach the recombinant growth threshold number R.

R is a term we use in Timetric-land for to capture the economic/biological concept of "recombinant growth. Thankfully, R is, I think, in the low single digits in this case :-)

It is straightforward to see how entities can independently host numbers that collectively can be mashed-up to create new host numbers. The more the merrier! Less obvious[1] is how the fabric of the Web can be made to support the critical concept of near real-time calculations and update notifications on those numbers so that "calculating" is as easy as "hosting" is today.

Then of course, there is the minor sounding but hugely thorny issues of naming the numbers (the URIs), namespaces, normative copies yada, yada.

Hard and interesting problems one and all. Problems well worth solving for the value they will bring. I would suggest that this emerging space is the future of what today is known as a "spreadsheet". It is not a desktop calculation experience hosted in a web browser. That is not particularly interesting as it just takes a desktop paradigm and puts it on the Web. I'm talking about radically rethinking the whole concept of a spreadsheet. I'm talking about something that is not so much "on the web" as "in the web". Built in. Native. All around you. All the time. A worldwide interlinked network of bazillions of numeric quantities. All updating and being updated in line with their semantic interconnections (known in today's terminology as "spreadsheet formulas"). All ready to be used to create yet more numbers and drive decision making at client and server levels of the ecosystem.

[1] Dare I say "cloud computing"?

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