Marc Canter, the founder and CEO of Broadband Mechanics, is known in the industry as a techno rabble rouser, with an operatic voice. In 1984, he co-founded MacroMind, which became Macromedia in 1991, and has continued to pioneer multimedia authoring and standards. Now at Broadband Mechanics he is merging his multimedia heritage with social networks, creating what he calls 'digital lifestyle aggregators.' I've known Marc since those early days, when the Macintosh first arrived and transformed personal computer. He was ahead of the curve in those days, and now is pushing the social network envelope in a quest to eliminate the growing number of walled gardens.
Marc Canter at the microphone in our podcast studio
In our podcast conversation, Marc gave his views on how social networks are evolving and the need for open standards. Social networks include your content (text, audio, video) and list of friends. People are invested in relationships with other people and want to move their data from one place to the next, but there is no import/export option, he said. "I'm trying to encouarge the big data silos to open up."
He is betting that among the big players, Apple, Google and Microsoft will stay closed, but he is holding out hope for Yahoo and AOL to be more open. Of course, it not clear yet how Yahoo or AOL (a client of Broadband Mechanics) might make data accessible and portable for users. The same questions can be posed to MySpace, Facebook, Xanga, Bebo and other upstart social networks. Marc is an evangelist for a level playing field and may the best service win. Loyalty is accorded based on the value services provide--the lock in approach is Web 1.0, he said. During the podcast Marc handicaps the various players in what he called an "interesting chess game unfolding"; highlights the importance of identity and authentication services and structured content standards; and discusses his company's PeopleAggregator, an open source project based on open standards that will allow people to create their own social networks and integrate them with any other software via internal APIs and external Web services.