Category: EAUT

Vidoop launches Skunk Works 2.0

Vidoop Skunk Works 2.0In the midst of World War II—likely a bit before all of our times—Lockheed (now Lockheed Martin) funded a highly creative group of engineers, focused on developing the next generation of aircraft. Shrouded in secrecy, the project turned out concepts that continue to influence the aircraft at which we still marvel today.

And which, with all likelihood, continues to secretly burn the midnight oil constructing concept craft that will provide the transport of tomorrow.

The project, according to Wikipedia’s entry, was affectionately dubbed the “Skunk Works,” after a popular comic of the day:

The term “Skunk Works” came from the Al Capp comic strip Li’l Abner, which was popular in the 1940s. In the comic, the “Skonk Works” was a backwoods still operated by Big Barnsmell, known as the “inside man at the Skonk Works”. In his secret facility, he made “kickapoo joy juice” by grinding dead skunks and worn shoes into a smoldering vat.

So why the history lesson? Did I change the blog focus to have more of a Lost Oregon vibe?

No. But, tarry a moment longer, gentle reader. Bear with me. Please allow me to explain.

Why, in the name of all things AJAX-y, would I ever try to equate this sort of old-school aircraft engineering concept with anything occurring in the Web 2.0 world of today?

Because, I’ve long held the opinion that Portland-based Vidoop—with its hires like Scott Kveton and Chris Messina coupled with its continued incubation of some very cutting edge projects—is well on its way to creating Skunk Works 2.0.

And Kveton and Messina aren’t alone. Vidoop has hired up a laundry list of talent. A list that bled Tulsa dry and caused them to look for other markets. And now, they’ve been hiring a very intelligent group of folks here in Portland.

But what Vidoop is doing with those people is as interesting as any of the projects on which they’re working.

You see, Vidoop is giving them space. Giving them free reign. Giving them autonomy. And allowing them to be creative. Or to continue the creative works that they may have been pursuing elsewhere.

Only they’re giving them more resources with which to work.

And today, they formalized that ad hoc effort of the last 4-6 months a bit more with the announcement of Vidoop Labs.

Still not making the Skunk Works connections? Well, the intuitive leap becomes far less difficult when you consider this little snippet (also from the Wikipedia “Skunk Works” entry):

[Skunk Works was an] organization given a high degree of autonomy and unhampered by bureaucracy, tasked with working on advanced or secret projects.

Ah ha! Now, it’s starting to work.

I mean, what better way to describe Vidoop’s early focus on OpenID, its adoption of the DiSo efforts, and its funding the development of efforts like Emailtoid and EAUT (Yute!).

Vidoop is clearly pursuing something unique. A Skunk Works of its own. A development organization that pushes the envelope for the Open Web. That dreams up what could be. That lives free of the bureaucracy that tends to hamper more thoughtful and progressive projects. That seeks to fund and feed those projects that may not otherwise get the care and feeding they deserve.

And that’s happening right here in Portland.

And with the launch of Vidoop Labs, the Vidoop folks have begun formalize an umbrella for the projects already underway:

Today we are launching Vidoop Labs as a central place where we will be showcasing existing and future technology projects that we believe will help take the Internet and its users to a better place. Since most of these projects are open source in nature, I’d like to encourage everyone to get some code on their hands. We are all in this together!

Now, granted, one major difference between the original Skunk Works and Vidoop Labs is the veil of secrecy. Vidoop Labs is churning quickly and fairly transparently, if the Emailtoid to EAUT progression is any indication.

And I expect that trend to continue.

Not to get all Pollyanna, but man, what a great experiment.

Get a bunch of smart people in a room. And let them create. Let them do what they do best. And see what comes of it.

Not knowing, at the outset, what you’re going to get. But having utmost confidence that the team will deliver something creative, well engineered, and valuable.

If that’s not the kind of work I’d like to see happening in Portland, I don’t know what is.

Interested in more information on the rocket surgery occurring in your own backyard? Take a look at Vidoop Labs, with its sections for Emailtoid, EAUT, DiSo, and the inevitable “coming soon.”

The Beauty of EAUT (Email Address to URL Translation)

OpenID, as a concept, holds great promise. And Portland—with OpenID proponents like Vidoop and JanRain—is home to some of the most promising thought in the application of that concept.

But the URL thing still trips folks up.

And that’s a known issue. Not everyone wants to use a URL to identify themselves. An email address makes more sense to some folks.

But there’s a problem. An email address isn’t exactly an “endpoint.” And there’s no way to hang other stuff off of an email address, like identity information or helpful code like XFN.

Still, from a usability standpoint, “using my email address to login” is about as common a practice as any on the Web.

So there needs to be a translation. Something that lets people use the credential they want, but allows folks to have the endpoint credential they need.

Roughly a month ago, Portland-based Vidoop released something designed to solve this problem: Emailtoid, a service that allowed folks to use an email address as their OpenID.

I thought Emailtoid showed a great deal of promise. But apparently, it wasn’t good enough.

Now, Vidoop’s Will Norris and Michael Richardson have helped take the concept of Emailtoid a step further by working on the development of a new spec. It’s a spec that may simplify the issue even further.

Introducing EAUT—pronounced “yute“—a distributed email address to URL translation that allows anyone to take the conversion from email address to OpenID URL and hide it behind the scenes of the transaction. With just a little bit of code.

Or, to let Vidoop explain EAUT more clearly:

In basic terms EAUT makes it easy to take an email address and transform it into an URL, making your email work with services like OpenID. The goal with Emailtoid is to demonstrate the technology and provide a fallback solution for a larger, decentralized network based on the EAUT specification.

What’s more, it’s decentralized. Meaning any email address—any email address—now holds the potential to become an OpenID:

EAUT is designed to work in a distributed fashion, so that no one authority controls it. Every email provider can control how email addresses at their domain are resolved into URLs.

So, now that bright and shiny new Emailtoid—instead of leading the charge—becomes the fallback service should this validation fail. According to plan.

Hopefully, the release of the EAUT spec continues to chip away at the barriers that are preventing major providers—providers that serve as relying parties but don’t allow users to login via OpenID—to move into the realm of becoming full-fledged OpenID supporters.

And in so doing, here’s hoping that EAUT helps accelerate the adoption of OpenID, a concept that today may only save headaches for a handful of geeks with innumerable logins, but which may one day serve as an open foundation for credentials and security on the open Web of the future.

Combining the power of OpenID with the ease of email addresses. And making it open and distributed.

This could be a thing of beauty.

To test drive it, try out the EAUT examples. For more information on the spec, see the Vidoop post or the EAUT site.

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