Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The impact of form-factor

I have an interesting observation that most folks who are interested in web services (HTTP transports and XML payloads) are also interested in Agents (the converse seems also true, though to a lesser extent). Needless to say, I am one of those folks.

When I visualize the trends of both Agents and Web-services, I see convergence happening. I also see the rate of convergence increasing. There must be a very strong feedback loop that is making this happen.

Of many things that are catalyzing this convergence, I would like to point-out a rather obscure but in my mind a relevant trend that is precipitating this confluence - which is the miniaturization of form-factor.

I would like to describe the form-factor as the magnitude of footprint or weight of a widget/agent/service/component . To take an example, the form-factors of a silicon transistor has decreased many times over since they were interested. That has resulted in packing more and more power in the same amount of space, which means we have full-blown computers in your hand - like the iPod.

Similarly, I have noticed the trend of Agents is loosened up a bit. Lighter weight frameworks are springing up. In the past (I go back to 2000, when working with Wolf), you always looked for Agent platforms - which were more or less proprietary - and the vision I get is big,heavy,inertia . Overtime, as the memes spread, innovations happened, we have reached a stage - take this blog as an example, where we are not afraid to talk about agents running on the most ubiquitous platform - the browser. Yes, the browser now is the platform.

From a web-services front, what started as SOAP, as our understanding of what is practical and what is needed, the form of the web-services has changed significantly to take the current form of REST-based services. Where as SOAP was "opaque", REST was transparent. As things become more transparent, they become more useful and innovations spring forth. REST being a style and not an API or framework, the non-programmers started innovating. Services have sprung all over, even SOAP is adopting REST. i.e. Web services have become commoditized.

With commoditization comes ubiquity, very low barrier to entry and smaller and smaller foot-prints, weight - collectively what I refer to as the form-factor. In a very small footprint I can consume and expose web-services, mash them up in Java, Ruby, Python, javascript, digest them and spit them out again to be consumed by something else - like Yahoo Pipes.

Now with so much power and so much access to information, the land has been tilled and fertilized for the next level of innovations to grow.

Agents folks, in AgentWorld, suddenly have the limitless access to search services, encyclopaedia services (wikipedia etc.), product cataloges, consumer trends - that are a result of massive, internet-scale intelligence - all in just a few lines of code(very small form-factor). With a few learning algorithms, they could get wiser. Agents meet Web services.

In the other-world, say ServiceLand. Service developers have all this power in their hands, expressed in again very few lines of code. With the world-knowledge in their hands and in essence ability to collaborate with any number of other services, it is but obvious that with a little bit more infusion of autonomy, proactivity, learning the value of their service suddenly becomes much more valuable. Web services meet Agents.

A welcome convergence of AgentWorlds with ServiceLands - in no small part due to the miniaturizations of their form-factors.


No comments: