More on Windows Live Groups (and Mesh)
Chris Overd has published a blog entry this evening on Liveside entitled Groups – More than just a stand-alone service. In it he postulates that when Windows Live Groups gets released it will be more than just an enhanced version of the existing MSN Groups. Chris talks of how he expects Windows Live Groups to complement all the existing Windows Live services by allowing us to define behaviour by groups of users instead of just none or all like we have today. Chris also said he expects there to be an API that will enable us to use these groups programmatically.
I quite agree with everything Chris said and I said the same, just in a slightly different way, in my blog entry Windows Live Groups predictions and "Active directory in the cloud" on 4th January earlier this year. Check out some of my remarks from that:
- [This] gives rise to the idea of Live Groups becoming something analogous to an "active directory in the cloud"
- This "active directory in the cloud" idea relies on a robust API that allows a 3rd party site to add and remove people from groups
- Even more powerful is the idea that 3rd party websites that authenticate visitors using Live ID could use Live Groups to determine what each user can do on that site
Chris listed some ideas how Windows Live Groups could be leveraged by Spaces, Messenger and Skydrive. To that I would add the following:
- Allow us to define a subset of people that have access to our photos on Spaces
- Allow us to define finer-grained permissions on parts of my profile. For example, I don’t mind my friends knowing where I live but I don’t want everyone to know
- Enable me to send an email to a group of contacts rather than having to define each of them individually. For example, if I run a sports team I could just create a Windows Live Group containing everyone in the team and simply send an email to that group.
- I may want to share my Zune plays information only with my friends so that advertisers can’t access this information and thus try and sell stuff to me on the back of it
There will be many more.
Really though we are only brushing the surface of what Windows Live Groups might allow; the real power of this ability to define groups of users will be fully realised when Live Mesh gets released and I’ll explain why I think so.
Live Mesh will enable 3rd parties to interact with me (and my data) even when I’m offline but if this sounds scary to you, you needn’t worry. I as the user will have full control of what data 3rd parties have access to and to prove it you should head to http://consent.live.com where you can see the seeds of these fruits. I suspect that we will be able to specify that a Windows Live Group (as opposed to just an individual user) has access to some of my data and when you consider that that data will include data created by 3rd parties rather than just the existing Windows Live services that we know and love/hate then you can hopefully see why that becomes very compelling.
Imagine a Flickr application that synchronises my Flickr photos back to my Mesh. At that point those photos are mine to do with as I wish (rightly so – they were mine in the first place) so perhaps I could automatically push those photos to another photo sharing site (say Smugmug) as well. This way the Mesh enables me to seamlessly synchronise photos between Smugmug, Flickr and anyone else that I specify has access to those photos. That’s all well and good but perhaps I want my friends that don’t use Flickr or Smugmug to see those photos. No matter, I can setup a list of my friends as a Windows Live Group and specify that they have access to my Flickr photos as well and moreover (and this is the important bit) they don’t even need to be Flickr members.
That is a slightly nebulous example because it would require Flickr to build an application that provides this sort of 2-way sharing as well but the hope of Mesh is that they will (I actually firmly believe that they will). This is what Chris talked about when he said:
"Perhaps the most interesting implementations could be via Groups APIs, integrating some of these features into Facebook and other social networks"
He’s spot on. As I’ve just demonstrated we will be able to make Mesh the hub of our online activity and moreover we will be able to easily control who has access to what data. It isn’t too difficult to make the leap to getting data out of Facebook’s walled garden thus making it available to other sites.
Are you feeling the Mesh excitement yet?